The Latest: UN says Saudi-Iran crisis won't hurt Syria talks

AP News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2016 12:05 PM
The Latest: UN says Saudi-Iran crisis won't hurt Syria talks

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The latest developments after Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Tehran amid a dispute over Riyadh's execution of an opposition Shiite cleric and attacks on Saudi diplomatic posts in Iran. (All times local.)

8:40 p.m.

The U.N. envoy for Syria says the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran "will not have any negative impact" on Syria peace talks set to begin later this month.

Staffan de Mistura says in a statement released Tuesday that there is "a clear determination on the Saudi side" that the regional tensions will not affect the political process that is expected to begin Jan. 25 in Geneva.

The statement was released after the envoy met with the Saudi foreign minister in Riyadh. De Mistura will visit Iran this week in an attempt to cool tempers on both sides. Saudi Arabia has severed diplomatic ties with Iran amid a dispute over Riyadh's execution of an opposition Shiite cleric.

The U.N. envoys says "we cannot afford to lose this momentum" on Syria.

Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Saudi Arabia is one of the leading backers of the rebels trying to topple him.

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7:15 p.m.

Bahrain has halted all flights to and from Iran a day after it joined Saudi Arabia in severing diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic.

Bahrain's Transport Ministry announced the move Tuesday in a statement carried by the official Bahrain News Agency.

Bahrain is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, which severed diplomatic ties and also halted all flights to and from Iran after Iranian protesters attacked Riyadh's diplomatic missions, violence stemming from Saudi Arabia's execution of a prominent opposition Shiite cleric.

Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni monarchy but has a Shiite majority which supported mass protests in 2011 demanding greater political rights.

The civil aviation department of Bahrain's Transport Ministry said it would take steps to minimize any inconvenience for travelers who have prior reservations.

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6 p.m.

Hundreds of protesters are marching in Bahrain to denounce Saudi Arabia's execution of a Shiite cleric.

The march was happening Tuesday afternoon in Sitra, south of Bahrain's capital, Manama.

An Associated Press journalist saw police fire tear gas and birdshot, while some protesters threw gasoline bombs. A number of protesters suffered wounds from the birdshot.

The Shiite protesters were enraged over the Sunni kingdom's execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr over the weekend.

Bahrain, a tiny island off the coast of Saudi Arabia, is predominantly Shiite, but ruled by Sunnis. It's been the scene of long-running, low-intensity unrest since 2011 Arab Spring-inspired protests.

Bahrain is also the home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

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5:45 p.m.

Amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a privately owned Saudi satellite broadcaster says its website was the target of a failed hacking attempt.

Al-Arabiya English wrote on its Twitter account Tuesday afternoon: "There was attempt to hack Al Arabiya English & distort our content. Service may be temporarily disrupted but will normally resume shortly."

Faisal J. Abbas, the editor-in-chief of Al-Arabiya English, told The Associated Press that the attack only affected the broadcaster's website and that employees were still working on the problem.

The website could not be accessed Tuesday afternoon.

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1:45 p.m.

Iran's president says Saudi Arabia "cannot cover its crime" in executing a Shiite cleric by severing ties with the Islamic Republic.

President Hassan Rouhani made the comments in a statement posted to his website Tuesday, referring to the kingdom's execution of leading Shiite cleric and opposition figure Sheikh Nimr-al Nimr.

Rouhani says that the "Saudi government has taken a strange action and cut off its diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran to cover its crimes."

He adds that, "undoubtedly, such actions can't cover up that big crime."

The statement said Rouhani made that comment to visiting Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen.

Saudi Arabia cut ties to Iran after attacks on two of its diplomatic posts in the Islamic Republic following al-Nimr's execution.

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12:15 p.m.

Kuwait says it has recalled its ambassador to Iran over attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic.

Kuwait's announcement, which was carried on the state-run Kuwait News Agency on Tuesday, did not elaborate or say how the Kuwait-Iran diplomatic ties would be affected.

The move comes after Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties to Iran over the storming of two diplomatic posts in the country following the kingdom's execution of a top Shiite cleric who was also an opposition figure.

Several Saudi allies followed the kingdom's lead and on Monday scaled back or cut diplomatic ties to Iran.

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12:00 p.m.

Sudan has given Iranian diplomats two weeks to leave the country, following Khartoum's decision to cut diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic in solidarity with Saudi Arabia.

The state-owned SUNA agency says Sudan's foreign affairs ministry summoned Iran's charge d'affaires in the Sudanese capital to inform the mission that the diplomats have two weeks at the most to leave.

A Saudi ally, Sudan cut ties with the Islamic Republic after Iranian protesters attacked the kingdom's embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad. The protesters were enraged over the Sunni kingdom's execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr over the weekend.

Several allies of Saudi Arabia followed the kingdom's lead and on Monday scaled back diplomatic ties to Iran.

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11:30 a.m.

Egypt's foreign minister has denounced the attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran as "unacceptable."

Sameh Shoukry said during a visit to Riyadh on Tuesday that Iranian behavior following sheikh Nimr al-Nimr's execution is tantamount to "intervening in the kingdom's internal affairs."

The Egyptian diplomat also reaffirmed his country's support for Saudi Arabia ahead of an upcoming meeting of foreign ministers at the Arab League that is due to discuss the Iran-Saudi spat.

He says the "security of the kingdom is an integral part of Egypt's security and Egypt's security is an integral part of the kingdom's security."

Saudi Arabia has supported Egypt as it struggles with a growing insurgency and economic downturn.

Several Saudi allies have rallied the kingdom's side, with a number of nations following its lead in either cutting or reducing diplomatic ties with Iran. Egypt cut ties with Iran in 1989.

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10:40 a.m.

Switzerland's Foreign Ministry has said that it summoned the Saudi charge d'affaires to reiterate its opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances after a mass execution in the kingdom.

The Swiss ministry, in a statement dated on Monday, said that "these mass executions risk reviving the confessional tensions which have already caused far too many victims in this region of the world."

It stressed the importance of doing everything to lower those tensions and "avoid provocations."

The Swiss move comes after Saudi Arabia on Saturday executed Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others. Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with Iran late on Sunday, hours after protesters stormed and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran in protest of the execution.