Dubai/Riyadh: Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran on Sunday, responding to the storming of its embassy in Tehran in an escalating row between the rival Middle East powers over Riyadh's execution of a Shi'ite Muslim cleric.
Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh that the envoy of Shi'ite Iran had been asked to quit Saudi Arabia within 48 hours. The kingdom, he said, would not allow the Islamic republic to undermine its security.
Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran early today and Shi'ite Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, predicted "divine vengeance" for the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an outspoken opponent of the ruling Al Saudi family.
Jubeir said the attack in Tehran was in line with what he said were earlier Iranian assaults on foreign embassies there and with Iranian policies of destabilising the region by creating "terrorist cells" in Saudi Arabia.
"The kingdom, in light of these realities, announces the cutting of diplomatic relations with Iran and requests the departure of delegates of diplomatic missions of the embassy and consulate and offices related to it within 48 hours. The ambassador has been summoned to notify them," he said.
Meanwhile, the brother of Nimr al-Nimr, the Shiite cleric executed in Saudi Arabia at the weekend, today condemned retaliatory attacks on the kingdom's diplomatic missions in Iran, insisting: "We love our country".
"We appreciate your love towards the martyr #Sheikh_AlNimr who lives in our hearts but we refuse attacks on #Saudi ambassies in #Iran or others," Mohammed al-Nimr tweeted in English.
Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia responded yesterday by severing diplomatic ties with Shiite-dominated Iran, its long-time regional rival.
Nimr, 56, was executed along with 46 other men, mostly Sunnis linked to al Qaeda.
His body was not given for his family for burial, according to another post on Twitter by his brother, who said authorities informed the family that the cleric had already been buried.
Nimr's brother issued a statement calling for the corpse of Nimr to be handed over to his family.
He expressed the family's hopes that "officials would answer our legitimate wish quickly by giving us the body of the martyred sheikh so that he would be buried in his hometown Awamiya."
Assailants killed a civilian and wounded a child today when they opened fire on Saudi police in Awamiya, Nimr's birthplace in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province, state media reported.
(With Agency inputs)