January 11, 2016 / 12:41 PM / 2 years ago

Iran seeks to limit diplomatic fall-out from Saudi embassy attacks

Shi'ites protest against the execution of Shi'ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, during a demonstration in Baghdad January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran took steps on Monday to try to limit the diplomatic damage from an attack on Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran by an angry mob, laying blame on a top security official and saying some of those who carried out the attack were being interrogated.

Iranian officials appear to fear that the Jan. 2 storming of the embassy by a mob protesting Riyadh’s execution of a leading Shi‘ite cleric may derail moves to end years of isolation with the West following the signing of a landmark nuclear deal with world powers in July.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and some other states have broken off ties with Iran over the attack. The United Arab Emirates downgraded relations while some others recalled their envoys in protest.

The Tehran government quickly distanced itself from the attack, saying the protesters had entered the Saudi embassy despite widespread efforts by the police to stop them.

“Based on primary investigations the mistakes of Safar-Ali Baratlou, Tehran province’s deputy governor for security affairs, were proved and he was promptly replaced due to sensitivity of the case,” the interior ministry announced in a statement published by the Fars news agency on Monday.

Some of the attackers have been identified, captured and interrogated, Tehran general prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

President Hassan Rouhani asked Iran’s judiciary last week to urgently prosecute those who attacked the Saudi embassy “to put an end once and for all to such damage and insults to Iran’s dignity and national security.”

The robust moves to reprimand and prosecute those guilty of the embassy attack was unusual for Tehran.

Iran still celebrates the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran every year and refers to it as the Second Revolution.

Since then, Iranians carried out attacks on several other embassies in Tehran, including those of Kuwait in 1987, Saudi Arabia in 1988, Denmark in 2006 and Britain in 2011, most of which led to a breach in diplomatic relations.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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