Minister: Iran ready for Saudi Arabia talks amid diplomatic fallout

Iran Wednesday showed signs that it was willing to hold talks with Saudi Arabia amid a dispute between the two regional rivals, triggered by Saudi Arabia's execution of a dissident Shiite cleric that set off diplomatic fallout across the globe.

"We want friendship, brotherhood and good relations with all countries of the region," Iranian President Hassan Ruhani said.

The Saudi government should end its anti-Iran course and contribute constructively to a common and serious fight against Islamic State, he said, referring to the terrorist militia active in Syria and Iraq.

Ruhani also demanded that the "criminals" who attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran be put on trial.

"The attackers are criminals whose illegal and un-Islamic act damaged the international reputation of Iran," Ruhani told a weekly cabinet meeting.

Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations with Iran on Sunday, angered by Tehran's vehement criticism and the weekend storming of its embassy in the Iranian capital.

Demonstrators in Tehran attacked the Saudi embassy on Saturday, the same day that the Saudi government announced the execution of 47 people for convictions on terrorism-related charges.

Among those executed was Saudi Shiite Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a fiery critic of the kingdom’s Sunni authorities.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said all countries in the region should unite together, especially in the fight against current threats of terrorism, but that Riyadh has consistently blocked constructive collaboration.

"Iran wants no tension in the region and would always welcome dialogue with its neighbours," Zarif said at press conference in Tehran.

Zarif said he regretted and condemned the attack on the Saudi embassy, adding that 50 people had already been arrested in connection with the violence.

The Iranian diplomats Wednesday left Saudi Arabia for home in compliance with Riyadh's decision to sever ties with Tehran, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. 

Following Riyadh's lead, Saudi allies Bahrain and Sudan broke their diplomatic ties with Iran on Monday, and the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have recalled their ambassadors from the country.

Oman, a member of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council that includes Saudi Arabia, Wednesday called the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran “unacceptable”.

But Oman, which maintains warm ties with Iran, stopped short of downgrading its ties with Tehran.

Shiite Iran and Saudi Arabia back opposite sides in civil wars in Yemen and Syria.

The current row between Saudi Arabia and Iran is their worst since 1988 following deadly clashes between Saudi security forces and Iranian pilgrims, prompting a three-year severance of ties between Riyadh and Tehran.

Al-Nimr’s execution has sparked angry protests among the region’s Shiites.

Thousands of Iraqis Wednesday condemned the execution at a rally held in central Baghdad. Some of the demonstrators were clad in military uniforms and raised pictures of al-Nimr.

The protesters, including some Shiite lawmakers, called on the Iraqi government to close down the Saudi embassy in Baghdad, which was reopened last month after 25 years.

The protesters also called for executing Saudi nationals being held in Iraqi jails for terrorism-related offences.

Iraq's religious and political leaders have repeatedly denounced al-Nimr’s execution, warning it will stoke regional sectarianism. 

Last update: Wed, 06/01/2016 - 16:28

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