Saudi Arabia Breaks Off Ties With Iran After Al-Nimr Execution

saudi arabia breaks off ties with iranSaudi Arabia has broken off diplomatic ties with Iran, amid a row over the Saudi execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric.

Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, made the announcement after demonstrators stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr and 46 others were executed on Saturday after being convicted of terror-related offences.

Mr Jubeir said that all Iranian diplomats must leave Saudi Arabia within 48 hours and the kingdom is also recalling its diplomats from Tehran.

Iran is Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival – they back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

BBC reported that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had earlier warned that the Sunni Muslim Kingdom would face “divine revenge” for the execution – an act which also angered Shia Muslims elsewhere in the Middle East.

Ayatollah Khamenei called Sheikh Nimr a “martyr” who had acted peacefully.

Protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran late on Saturday, setting fire to the building before being driven back by police. The Saudi Foreign Ministry said none of its diplomats had been harmed in the incident.

Iran is Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival – they back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Relations between the countries have been strained over various issues in recent decades, including Iran’s nuclear programme and deaths of Iranians at the Hajj pilgrimage in 1987 and again in 2015.

Hajj Stampede: Iran Victims’ Bodies Repatriated

hajj stampede victims arrive iranIran has begun receiving its dead as the first bodies of pilgrims killed in a stampede during the annual hajj pilgrimage in mecca have arrived back in the capital Tehran.

The ceremony saw 104 bodies returned home from Saudi Arabia. Iran says at least 464 of its nationals were killed.

The Saudi authorities put the total death toll at 769, but foreign media reports and officials put the figure at well over 1,000.

Tehran had blamed the incident on Saudi “mismanagement”.

But Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, had accused Iran of “playing politics” with the disaster, calling on Tehran to await the outcome of an investigation.

Speaking at the repatriation ceremony, Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, said that the tragedy was a “big test” for everyone. “In this incident, our language has been that of fraternity and respect”, he said.

“When required, we have used the language of diplomacy. If needed, the Islamic Republic of Iran will also use language of power.”

The crush happened as two large groups of pilgrims converged as they were taking part in one of the Hajj’s major rites.

The Saudi authorities have not released a breakdown of victims by nationality.

Iran Calls For Probe Over Hajj Stampede

iran on hajj pilgrimsIran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, has called for an investigation into Thursday’s stampede at the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The incident was the deadliest to hit the Hajj in 25 years, with 769 people dead, more than 130 of them from Iran.

Mr Rouhani described the crush as “heart-rending”. As well as the fatalities, 934 people were injured.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, however, accused the Iranians of playing politics with a tragedy.

Mr Jubeir, who is also in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, said he believes Iranians should know better than to play politics with a tragedy that had befallen people who were performing their most sacred religious duty.

Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric had defended the authorities, saying the stampede was “beyond human control”. King Salman had also ordered a safety review into the disaster.

The crush occurred on Thursday morning as two million pilgrims were taking part in the Hajj’s last major rite.

The pilgrims threw seven stones at pillars called Jamarat, which stood at the place where Satan is believed to have tempted the Prophet Abraham.

With temperatures around 46C, two massive lines of pilgrims converged on each other at right angles at an intersection close to the five-storey Jamarat Bridge in Mina, a large valley about 5km (3 miles) from Mecca.

It was the second disaster to strike in two weeks, after a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 109 people.