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BERLIN, Jan 2 (Reuters) - A German foreign ministry official condemned the execution in Saudi Arabia of prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr, saying it deepened worries about the region.
Most of 47 people executed on Saturday in Saudi's biggest mass execution for decades were Sunnis convicted of al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia a decade ago. Four, including Nimr, were Shi'ites accused of involvement in shooting policemen.
"The execution of Nimr al-Nimr strengthens our existing concerns about increasing tensions and deepening rifts in the region," said the official, who declined to be named.
Germany views the world's biggest oil exporter as an important business partner and ally but the relationship is increasingly complex.
Last month Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency suggested Riyadh was becoming more impulsive in its foreign policy and ready to take more risks in its regional rivalry with Iran. This was, it said, in part due to a diminishing confidence in the United States as guarantor of order in the Middle East.
In a highly unusual move, the foreign ministry rebuked the BND for its assessment.
Germany's opposition Greens said the executions were a wake-up call for Germany's "strategic partnership" with Saudi Arabia.
"The execution of a prominent minority representative testifies to a panic that makes a mockery of the government's argument that (Saudi Arabia) is a 'stability partner'," said the Greens foreign affairs spokesman Omid Nouripour, born in Iran.
Last month, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democrat (SPD), said Saudi Arabia had a central role in fighting Islamic State and helping to eliminate the militant group's ideological breeding ground.
Yet earlier in December, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, head of the SPD which shares power with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, urged Riyadh to stop backing religious radicals amid growing worry about funding for militant mosques. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Catherine Evans and John Stonestreet)
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