Friday 23 March 2018

Saudis can't hide execution 'crime' - Iran

An Iranian woman holds up a poster showing Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a
prominent opposition Saudi Shiite cleric who was executed last week by Saudi Arabia, during a protest against his death in Tehran, Iran
An Iranian woman holds up a poster showing Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent opposition Saudi Shiite cleric who was executed last week by Saudi Arabia, during a protest against his death in Tehran, Iran
President Hassan Rouhani

Jonathan Gray London

Iran's president has said that Saudi Arabia cannot "cover up" its crime of executing a leading Shiite cleric by severing diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic.

President Hassan Rouhani's comments came as Kuwait announced it had recalled its ambassador to Iran over attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic.

The execution last weekend of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric and opposition figure in Saudi Arabia, has heightened the Saudi-Iran regional rivalry, threatening to derail already shaky peace efforts over the wars in Syria and Yemen.

A statement posted on his official website said Mr Rouhani discussed the current diplomatic dispute with visiting Danish foreign minister Kristian Jensen.

"The Saudi government has taken a strange action and cut off its diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran to cover its crimes of beheading a religious leader in its country," Mr Rouhani said. "Undoubtedly, such actions can't cover up that big crime."

In Washington, as the cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia heats up, the Obama administration is trying to straddle the fence and not take sides, but its actions tell a different story - they all seem to favour Tehran.

Following the Saudi government's announcement that it had executed 47 prisoners including al-Nimr, the US State Department did two things. First, it issued a statement expressing concern that Riyadh's actions were "exacerbating sectarian tensions."

Then Secretary of State John Kerry called Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, urging him to try to de-escalate the crisis. 

A spokesmen for the White House insisted that the US was not taking a side, and that Kerry was set to call Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. But US and Arab diplomats say that America's Gulf allies, who feel most threatened by Iran, see things very differently.

Meanwhile, Iran's vice president, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, said the country's intelligence services were investigating the diplomatic mission attacks and that police officers who failed to take action to stop the assaults would be prosecuted.

Iranian police say at least 50 people already have been arrested over the attack.

The diplomatic stand-off between Iran and the kingdom began on Saturday, when Saudi Arabia executed Mr al-Nimr and 46 others convicted of terror charges - the largest mass execution carried out by the kingdom since 1980.

Mr al-Nimr, a central figure in the Arab Spring-inspired protests by Saudi Arabia's Shiite minority, was executed after being convicted of sedition and of other crimes, though he long denied advocating violence. News of his execution has sparked Shiite protests from Bahrain to Pakistan.

In Iran, protesters responded by attacking the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad.

Late on Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced it was severing relations with Iran because of the assaults, giving Iranian diplomatic personnel 48 hours to leave.

Sudan and the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain said on Monday they would sever ties with Iran. The United Arab Emirates announced it would downgrade ties to Tehran to the level of the charge d'affaires, while other nations issued statements criticising Iran.

Yesterday, Kuwait announced the recalling of its ambassador in a statement carried on the state-run Kuwait News Agency. However, Kuwait did not say it would sever its ties to Iran.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Shiite protesters marched in Sitra, south of Bahrain's capital, Manama, over Mr al-Nimr's execution.

Iran expressed "regret" over the attacks on the diplomatic missions in a letter to the United Nations on Monday and vowed to arrest those responsible.

In the letter, obtained by the Associated Press, Iran's UN envoy Gholamali Khoshroo said more than 40 protesters have been arrested and that authorities are searching for other suspects.

Irish Independent

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