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Saudi Arabia Severs Diplomatic Ties With Iran

Iranian riot police block a street leading to the Saudi embassy as protesters hold portraits of prominent Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr during a demonstration against his execution by Saudi authorities on Sunday in Tehran.

After executing a well-known Shiite cleric, inflaming sectarian conflict, Saudi Arabia has now announced it's severing diplomatic ties with Iran, NPR's Leila Fadel reports.

Saudi Foreign Minister Abdel al-Jubeir said Iran's diplomatic mission to Saudi Arabia had 48 hours to leave the country, Reuters reports; Saudi Arabia's diplomats in Tehran have already left Iran, the wire service notes.

Meanwhile, protests against Saudi Arabia's actions continue in Tehran. The two nations — majority-Shiite Iran and majority-Sunni Saudi Arabia — have long been at odds. They've often backed opposing forces in the region's various sectarian conflicts. But Saudi Arabia's executions have raised tensions sky-high.

NPR's Peter Kenyon reports that Iran's supreme leader promised divine retribution while Iran's president condemned both the execution and the subsequent storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Saturday. Peter filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"The execution of Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family, has inflamed sectarian anger across the region. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says it was a crime and a mistake.

"Khamenei said Saudi rulers should have no doubt that there will be divine retribution for the bloodshed.

"Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned the execution, but also criticized the mob that stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, burning part of the building. A number of arrests were reported, and Rouhani says those responsible must be brought to justice."

Saudi Arabia fired back. The New York Times reports that the country said the cleric and 46 others were executed for terrorism-related crimes and Tehran had "revealed its true face represented in support for terrorism."

The Times adds:

"Most of the reaction to the execution in the region broke cleanly along sectarian lines, with Shiite leaders in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere criticizing the Saudis for killing a man they called a peaceful dissident while Saudi Arabia's Sunni allies applauded what they called the country's efforts to fight terrorism.

"Most of those executed had been convicted of being involved with Al Qaeda in a wave of deadly attacks in the kingdom a decade ago and included prominent leaders and ideologues. Four, including Sheikh Nimr, were Shiites accused of participating in violent demonstrations in which demonstrators and police were killed."

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