The United States has expressed concern that Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr could further exacerbate sectarian rivalry in the Middle East.
The US State Department urged leaders throughout the region to redouble efforts to lower tensions.
Iranian protesters angry over the execution stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, setting fire to the building.
Sheikh Nimr was one of 47 people executed for terrorism offences.
He was a vocal supporter of mass protests in the Saudi-Arabia’s Shia-majority Eastern Province in 2011.
In a statement, US state spokesman John Kirby appealed to Saudi Arabia’s government to respect and protect human rights, and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings.
Mr Kirby also urged the Saudi government to permit peaceful expression of dissent and, along with other leaders in the region, to redouble efforts to reduce regional tensions.
MidEast leaders lash out at Saudi Arabia over Shiite cleric’s execution, protests erupt
“The Saudi government supports terrorists and takfiri [radical Sunni] extremists, while executing and suppressing critics inside the country,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
“The execution of Sheikh al-Nimr is a service to Daesh (the Arabic abbreviation for ISIS), which is betting on expanding by igniting sectarian wars,” said Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shiite politician and member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) party.
According to a lawmaker from Iraq’s ruling Shiite coalition, Saudi Arabia’s execution of al-Nimr was intended to fuel Sunni-Shiite strife and “set the region on fire.”
“This measure taken by the ruling family [of Saudi Arabia] aims at reigniting the region, provoking sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shiites,” Mohammed al-Sayhud told al-Sumaria TV.
Prominent Iraqis have called on the government in Baghdad on Saturday to cut ties with Riyadh over Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s execution, al-Sumaria TV reported.
“It’s a big crime that has opened the gates of hell,” Qasim al-Araji, the head of the Badr Organization in Iraq said, calling on Baghdad to cut diplomatic ties “immediately,” according to the channel’s website.
Another Iran-backed militia group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, has accused Saudi Arabia of seeking to provoke Sunni-Shiite strife, according to the TV’s website. “What the use of having a Saudi embassy in Iraq?” it reportedly said.
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