Iran says Saudi strike hits embassy in Yemen; no damage seen

Iran on Thursday 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 comes 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.

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Iran's state-run news agency said on Thursday afternoon that a Saudi-led airstrike last night hit its embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sana, citing the country's Foreign Ministry spokesman. However, an Associated Press reporter who reached the site just after the announcement saw no visible damage at the building.

Saudi officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The diplomatic standoff between Iran and Saudi Arabia began on Saturday, when the kingdom executed cleric Sheik Nimr 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 Thursday, Iran banned the import of goods from Saudi Arabia, according to a report by Iranian state television. It said the decision came during an emergency meeting of the Cabinet of President Hassan Rouhani.

Iran's annual exports to Saudi Arabia are worth about $130 million a year and are mainly steel, cement and agricultural products. Iran's annual imports from Saudi Arabia total about $60 million a year and consisted mostly of packing materials and textiles.

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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 were to end Wednesday night. Mohammed al-Nimr, the sheik's brother, said people planned to hold a funeral Thursday, though Saudi authorities had 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 Pakistani leaders. Pakistan, which is a predominantly Sunni Muslim state but has a large Shiite minority, has expressed hope that Saudi Arabia and Iran will be able to normalize their relations.

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