RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 4 (UPI) — Iranian diplomats have 48 hours to leave Saudi Arabia, the Saudi foreign minister said Sunday.
As tensions quickly rise between the two Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced his country has broken diplomatic ties with Iran; withdrawing all Saudi diplomats from Iran and forcing all Iranian diplomats to leave Saudi Arabia.
The United States has asked for cooler heads to prevail and restated the value of diplomacy.
The two countries have never had a close relationship, however, Iranians were incensed Saturday when the Saudi government executed Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others convicted of terror-related crimes. Al-Nimr was a rabid anti-Sunni who espoused the removal of the Sunni Muslim Saudi royal family during the so-called Arab spring in 2011.
In a mostly Shiite Iran, protesters threw Molotov cocktails into the Saudi embassy in Tehran and raided its offices. By Sunday morning, the country’s SPA new agency was reporting Saudi police were shot at in al-Nimr’s home village. Denounced as a terrorist act, police are still looking for the shooters.
Saudi Arabia would not allow Iranian actions to shake its national security, Jubeir said in the press conference announcing the expelling of diplomats, and accused Iran of “distributed weapons and planted terrorist cells in the region.”
“Iran’s history is full of negative interference and hostility in Arab issues,” Jubeir said. “And it is always accompanied by destruction.”
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted Sunday, “Doubtlessly, unfairly-spilled blood of oppressed martyr #SheikhNimr will affect rapidly & Divine revenge will seize Saudi politicians.”