Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has announced that Riyadh is severing diplomatic ties with Iran after demonstrators stormed its Tehran embassy. All Iranian diplomats must leave the kingdom within 48 hours.
Speaking at a news conference on Sunday, Jubeir accused Iran of trying to destabilize the region by creating "terrorist cells" in Saudi Arabia.
He added that the attack on the embassy was in line with Iran's alleged earlier attacks on diplomatic buildings.
"The kingdom, in light of these realities, announces the cutting of diplomatic relations with Iran and requests the departure of delegates of diplomatic missions of the embassy and consulate and offices related to it within 48 hours," he said. "The ambassador has been summoned to notify them."
Riyadh would not allow the Islamic Republic to undermine the Sunni kingdom's security, he added.
The United States, which is allied with the oil-rich kingdom, has urged diplomatic engagement and called for leaders in the region to reduce tensions.
"We believe that diplomatic engagement and direct conversations remain essential in working through differences and we will continue to urge leaders across the region to take affirmative steps to calm tensions," said US State Department spokesman John Kirby.
Iran arrests 44
The diplomatic crisis between the regional rivals worsened following the execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
Saudi diplomats were recalled from Iran after protesters attacked the embassy building in Tehran early on Sunday, along with a consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad.
Iran has arrested 44 people over the embassy storming, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani calling the incident "totally unjustifiable."
The execution of the Shiite leader al-Nimr, however, caused outrage both among the Iran's officials and the general public. On Sunday, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that Saudi Arabia would face "divine retribution."
Jubeir responded to Khamenei's remarks by saying that Iran's history was "full of negative interference and hostility in Arab issues, and it is always accompanied by destruction."
dj/cmk (Reuters, AFP, dpa)