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US scrambles to curb damage from Saudi-Iranian fallout

American diplomats try to salvage Syria peace efforts and avert the further deterioration of Iranian-Saudi relations after Saudi Arabia abruptly severed diplomatic relations with Iran on Jan. 3.
An Iranian protester holds up a street sign with the name of Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr during a demonstration against the execution of Nimr in Saudi Arabia, outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran January, 3, 2016. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY.       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX20VLE
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WASHINGTON — With long-sought UN Syria peace talks set for later this month at stake as well as the wider fight against the Islamic State, Washington and its allies were scrambling Jan. 4 to try to stem the fallout from Saudi Arabia’s abrupt decision to sever diplomatic relations with Iran following attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran in the wake of the Saudis’ execution of a dissident Shiite cleric.

The State Department, responding to Riyadh’s Jan. 3 announcement that it was severing diplomatic relations with Iran and giving Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country, urged maintaining diplomatic engagement and avoiding actions that could further inflame regional sectarian tensions.

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