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Saudi allies scale back ties with Iran as tensions soar

The day after, angry Iranians firebombed the Saudi missions in Iran, leading to Riyadh angrily severing diplomatic ties.

Iranian demonstrators hold anti-Saudi placards in a rally to protest the execution by Saudi Arabia last week of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent opposition Saudi Shiite cleric, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016.

While Iran is a Twelver Shia Islamic Republic founded in an anti-Western revolution, Saudi Arabia is an orthodox “Wahhabi” Sunni Islamic kingdom.

Federation of Islamic Associations president Hazim Arafeh said the two governments need to tread carefully.

The U.N. chief urged Saudi Arabia to renew a ceasefire it ended this weekend with the Iran-allied Shi’ite Houthi group in Yemen that it has been bombing for nine months.

After a furious response in Shi’ite communities worldwide to the Sunni kingdom’s execution of Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Iran was creating “terrorist cells” among the kingdom’s Shi’ite minority. He was convicted of terrorism charges but denied advocating violence.

The UAE, a country of seven emirates, has a long trading history with Iran and is home to many ethnic Iranians.

Shi’ite Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of using the attack on its embassy as an “excuse” to sever diplomatic relations and further increase sectarian tensions in the region. “Iran does not have guardianship or jurisdiction over a large number of Arabs for some sectarian reason”, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV.

The United Nations special envoy for Syria traveled to Saudi Arabia on Monday, from where he will head to Iran for talks with the countries’ leaders, the UN spokesman said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia previously severed ties with Iran from 1988 to 1991 over hajj rioting in 1987 and Iran’s attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf.

World powers have sought to calm the tensions, with Washington and the European Union reaching out.

A Russian state news agency on Monday quoting an unnamed senior diplomat as saying Moscow is ready to act as a mediator in the escalating conflict.

Following the execution, Iran said via a state-run news outlet that Saudi Arabia would suffer for its actions. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and others spent significant time trying to bring the countries to the negotiating table and they both sat together at talks aimed at ending the civil war.

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. “It is so clearly in the interests of both countries to advance a political solution to the situation inside of Syria”.

Meanwhile, al-Nimr’s family is holding three days of mourning at a mosque in al-Awamiya village in the kingdom’s al-Qatif region in predominantly Shiite eastern Saudi Arabia.

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