Iran president says Saudi embassy attack 'totally unjustifiable'

AFP , Sunday 3 Jan 2016

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses a press conference after registering his candidacy for the upcoming Assembly of Experts elections at the interior ministry in Tehran on December 21, 2015 (Photo: AFP)

Iran's president Sunday condemned the Saudi execution of a Shia cleric but also denounced attacks on the Sunni kingdom's embassy and consulate as "totally unjustifiable" after protesters stormed the compounds.

"The actions last night by a group of radicals in Tehran and Mashhad leading to damage at the Saudi embassy and consulate are totally unjustifiable, as the buildings should be legally and religiously protected in the Islamic Republic of Iran," Hassan Rouhani said, quoted by the official IRNA news agency.

At least 44 people were arrested late Saturday for storming the diplomatic missions in Tehran and Mashhad after Saudi Arabia announced it had executed prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other men on "terrorism" charges.

In Tehran protesters threw petrol bombs and stormed the embassy. The kingdom's consulate in Mashhad, Iran's second biggest city in the country's northeast, was also set on fire.

But Rouhani criticised Saudi Arabia for killing Nimr.

"I have no doubt that the Saudi government has damaged its image, more than before, among the countries in the world -- in particular (among) Islamic countries -- by this un-Islamic act," he said in a statement.

Yet, the people of Iran "will not allow rogue elements" to use the incident and "carry out illegal actions that damage the dignity of the Islamic republic establishment", he added.

"I call on the interior minister to identify the perpetrators of this attack with firm determination and introduce them to the judiciary... so that there will be an end to such appalling actions once and for all."

Earlier on Sunday Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Saudi politicians would face "divine revenge" for their actions.

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