RIYADH • Tensions between Iran and its Sunni Arab neighbours reached new heights yesterday (Monday, Jan 4) as Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies cut or downgraded diplomatic ties with Iran in a row that erupted over the execution of a Saudi Shi'ite cleric.
Teheran yesterday accused Riyadh of using an attack on the latter's embassy as a pretext to sever ties, in a diplomatic crisis that is deepening their often violent struggle for influence across the Middle East.
Angry exchanges following Riyadh's execution of prominent cleric Nimr al-Nimr erupted into a full- blown diplomatic crisis as Saudi Arabia and then Bahrain severed relations with Iran.
Saudi Arabia cut ties late on Sunday, giving diplomats 48 hours to leave the country, after protesters set fire to its embassy in Teheran and a consulate in Mashhad.
Bahrain followed suit yesterday, blaming the "cowardly" attacks on Saudi missions in Iran and "increasing flagrant and dangerous meddling" by Teheran in the internal affairs of Gulf and Arab states.
The United Arab Emirates downgraded its relations with Iran, recalling its envoy from Teheran.
Last night, Sudan also announced that it was cutting ties with Iran.
The growing crisis has raised fears of increased sectarian violence in the Middle East - including in Iraq, where two Sunni mosques were rocked by explosions overnight - and of damage to efforts to resolve conflicts in countries from Syria to Yemen.
Russia yesterday reportedly offered to serve as an intermediary to ease tensions.
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