01:35 GMT03 August 2021
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    Iran has downplayed Saudi Arabia and its allies' decision to sever or downgrade relations with Tehran following the current row over the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

    Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said that as small state, Saudi Arabia needed to rally support to be seen on regional or global stage, but Iran did not need any coalition because it was already a major state and a key player in the region, Fars news agency reported.

    "A large number of important states have lined up to expanding relations with us. What could be Saudi Arabia's share when we are developing relations with many countries?" Mohammad Baqer Nobakht wondered.

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani earlier said that “Saudi Arabia seeks to divert the public opinion from its cruel beheading of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr through diplomatic tumult with Tehran,” and urged human rights advocates to speak up about “Riyadh's crimes.”

    "Criticism shouldn’t be punished by beheading and we hope that the European countries, which always show reaction to the human rights issues, comply with their human rights responsibilities in this regard too," Rouhani said when meeting with visiting Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen on Tuesday.

    On Saturday Saudi Arabia announced the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other people in a move that drew angry condemnation from Sunni and Shiite Muslims worldwide.

    Human rights organizations accused Riyadh of “persistently implementing repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.”


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