Iran has accused the Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite rebels in Yemen of hitting its embassy there in an overnight airstrike – but the building bore no visible damage.
The accusation came amid a dangerous rise in tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia in recent days following the kingdom’s execution of a Shiite cleric and attacks on Saudi diplomatic posts in the Islamic Republic. Analysts had feared the dispute could boil over into the proxy wars between the two Mideast rivals in Yemen and in Syria.
Iran’s state-run news agency said that a Saudi-led airstrike last night hit its embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. However, reporters who reached the site just after the announcement saw no visible damage at the building.
The diplomatic stand-off between Iran and Saudi Arabia began on Saturday, when the kingdom executed al-Nimr and 46 others convicted of terrorism charges – the largest mass execution it has carried out since 1980.
Iranian protesters responded by attacking the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad. Late Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced it was severing relations with Iran because of the assaults. On Wednesday, Iranian diplomats in Saudi Arabia returned to Tehran, according to state media.
Since Saudi Arabia severed ties to Iran, a host of its allies have cut or reduced their ties as well.
Meanwhile, Iran has also banned the import of goods from Saudi Arabia over the tensions.
The decision reportedly came during an emergency meeting of the cabinet of president Hassan Rouhani.
Iran’s annual exports to Saudi Arabia are worth about £90 million a year and are mainly steel, cement and agricultural products. Iran’s annual imports from Saudi Arabia total about £41m a year and consisted mostly of packing materials and textiles.
In eastern Saudi Arabia, where al-Nimr agitated for greater political rights for Shiites in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, three days of mourning over his death have come to an end. Mohammed al-Nimr, the sheikh’s brother, said people planned to hold a funeral for the cleric, though Saudi authorities already buried his corpse in an undisclosed cemetery.
In other developments, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir arrived in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, for meetings with leaders. Pakistan has expressed hope that Saudi Arabia and Iran will be able to normalise their relations.