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Forty people arrested after Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran is attacked and set on fire

NewsBy Neil Fetherston
Smoke billows from the burning embassy
Smoke billows from the burning embassy

Forty people have been arrested after Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran was attacked and set on fire.

It follows the execution of a top Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr who was killed along with 46 other men yesterday

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saudi Arabia will face "divine revenge" over the killing.

"The unjustly spilt blood of this martyr will have quick consequences," Mr Khamenei said.

"This scholar neither encouraged people into armed action nor secretly conspired for plots but the only thing he did was utter public criticism rising from his religious zeal."

Mr Khamenei called the killing of Nimr "a political mistake by the Saudi government".

"God will not forgive ... it will haunt the politicians of this regime," he added.

Angry crowds in Iran set fire to the Saudi embassy and consulate late last night.

"The Saudi government supports terrorist movements and extremists, but confronts domestic critics with oppression and execution," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said.

It will "pay a high price for following these policies", he warned.

Saudi foreign ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki called Iran's reaction "irresponsible.

The demonstrators in Tehran hurled petrol bombs and stormed the Saudi embassy before being cleared out by police. Flames could be seen rising from the building.

"The fire has destroyed the interior of the embassy," an eyewitness said.

Saudi Arabia said the executed men had been convicted of adopting the radical "takfiri" ideology, joining "terrorist organisations" and implementing various "criminal plots".

56-year-old cleric Nimr, who spent more than a decade studying theology in Iran, was among a group of 47 Shiites and Sunnis executed Saturday on charges of terrorism.

Predominantly-Shiite Iran, the Sunni kingdom's longtime rival, said in reaction to Nimr's execution that "the Saudi government supports terrorist movements and extremists, but confronts domestic critics with oppression and execution".

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply dismayed" by Saudi Arabia's execution, a spokesman said Saturday.

"Sheik al-Nimr and a number of the other prisoners executed had been convicted following trials that raised serious concerns over the nature of the charges and the fairness of the process," Mr Ban's spokesman said.

The UN leader had raised Nimr's case "with the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions", the statement added.