Iran says talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia resumed in Baghdad

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FILE PHOTO: 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

(Reuters) - Rival regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia resumed talks in the Iraqi capital after they were suspended in March, Iran's semi-official Nour News reported on Saturday.

There was no confirmation from Saudi Arabia or Iraq on the resumption of the talks.

"The latest positive meeting has raised hopes for the two countries to take steps toward the resumption of ties,” said Nour News, which is affiliated with the country's Supreme National Security Council. It did not say when the fifth round of talks were held.

Riyadh severed ties with Tehran in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in the Iranian capital following the execution of a Shi'ite cleric in Saudi Arabia.

Iran suspended the talks in March without giving a reason for the decision that came as a new round of negotiations was due to start. The move came after Saudi Arabia executed 81 men in its biggest mass execution in decades. Tehran condemned the executions that activists said included 41 Shi'ite Muslims.

Predominantly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran, which are locked in proxy conflicts around the region, started direct talks last year to try to contain tensions.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have backed opposing sides in regional conflicts and political disputes in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq for years, and Saudi Arabia has led an Arab coalition waging war against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen since 2015.

(Editing by Kim Coghill)

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