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UK PM delays Saudi trip amid outrage over Riyadh’s mass executions

British Prime Minster David Cameron has postponed a trip to Saudi Arabia, amid global outrage and rising tensions sparked by Riyadh’s recent mass execution of people, including a top Shia cleric.   

Starting with the Saudi capital, Cameron was set to begin a tour of the Persian Gulf states in the coming weeks, but according to UK daily The Times the trip has been postponed until March.

A Cameron spokesperson said that the premier’s office will not confirm if the change in schedule is related to the executions of 47 people, including prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, adding that the prime minster is currently focused on the renegotiation of the UK’s presence in the European Union ahead of an upcoming referendum on the subject.

“We don’t confirm the prime minister’s travel plans in advance. Securing reforms to the UK’s relationship with the EU is a government priority and we would expect the prime minister to continue engaging with European leaders over the coming weeks,” she noted.

Iraqi protesters wave their national flag and hold posters of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr during a demonstration in the capital Baghdad on January 4, 2016. (AFP)

The executions have sparked condemnation from governments and human rights groups and resulted in multiple protests all over the world.

After Saudi Arabia announced the executions, demonstrations were held in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad by angry protesters censuring the Al Saud family for the execution of Nimr.

Following the incident, Saudi Arabia and several of its regional allies severed diplomatic relations with Iran.

The development on Cameron’s Persian Gulf states tour follows recent revelations the Saudi Arabia has been struck off the UK’s international anti-death penalty policy document, while countries with around 10 percent of Riyadh’s execution rate remain on the list.

“Saudi Arabia has consistently ranked in the world’s top five executioners, and a large proportion of beheadings carried out in the country have been for non-violent offenses, including protest,”said Maya Foa, the head of human rights group Reprieve’s death penalty team.

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