The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League have expressed support for Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia in the ongoing spat with Iran over Riyadh's executions. Throwing their weight behind the kingdom, the regional powers said they are rallying behind the fight against "terrorism".

The six-member GCC, which is usually dominated by the ultraconservative kingdom itself, said the council "stands side by side" with Riyadh. The council includes Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Arab League, a relatively-larger organisation with 22 members including nations in North Africa and the Horn of Africa, also issued a statement condemning Iran's actions. Criticising the attack against the Saudi embassy in Tehran, the statement said: "The League's Secretary General Nabil Araby condemned in the strongest terms the attacks on the Saudi Arabia's Embassy in Tehran and its Consulate in Mashhad, calling it a blatant violation of international conventions."

The Sunni kingdom executed 47 people, including prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, on terrorism charges on New Year's Day. This angered Iran, stoking a severe diplomatic crisis over the weekend.

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Saudi Arabia finally took the decision to sever its diplomatic ties with Iran. Riyadh has given Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country. Responding to Riyadh's move, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdullahian, who was the first official to react, said Saudi Arabia cannot get away with such a "big mistake". He added: "Iran is one of the safest countries in the region."

A quarrel between the regional heavyweights will put further pressure on the volatile situation in the Middle East, which is already witnessing intense conflicts. Scores of prominent figures in Saudi Arabia – including the grand mufti – have chosen harsher words in scorning Tehran since the executions took place.