As Xi heads into Middle East feud, China says aims for balance

Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after unveiling a sculpture during the opening ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in BeijingBy Michael Martina BEIJING (Reuters) – China intends to retain a balanced stance in the Middle East, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday, as President Xi Jinping prepared to leave on an unusual visit this week to Saudi Arabia and Iran, regional powers currently locked in a bitter dispute. Tensions between the Sunni Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Muslim Iran have escalated since Saudi authorities executed Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Jan. 2, triggering outrage among Shi'ites. In response, Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad, prompting Riyadh to sever relations.


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