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Britain Orders Closure Of Iranian Embassy In London, U.K. Embassy In Tehran

November 30, 2011


Britain has ordered the expulsion of all Iranian diplomats from the United Kingdom, ordering Iran to close its embassy in London within 48 hours.

The move comes a day after hard-line Islamist university students stormed the British Embassy in Tehran, smashing windows, starting fires, and looting property while police largely looked on. Hundreds of protesters also stormed a residential compound for British diplomats in another part of Tehran, reportedly briefly seizing six British Embassy staff there.

Iran's government has expressed regret about what it called the "unacceptable behavior" of protesters, whose attacks began during an anti-British demonstration apparently authorized by the authorities.

The Iranian government has denied any connection to the demonstration. But Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani said on November 30 that the "wrath" of the attackers was the result of "several decades of domination-seeking behavior by Britain."

Addressing an open session of parliament in Tehran, Larijani also called the UN Security Council's condemnation of the embassy attack a "hasty move."

Shameful Acts

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament the assaults were shameful acts by Iranians with direct links to the regime in Tehran.

​​"The majority of demonstrators were from a student Basij militia organization," Hague said. "We should be clear from the outset that this is an organization controlled by elements of the Iranian regime. The demonstrators proceeded systematically to vandalize and loot the homes of staff located on the site and the ambassador's residence. They destroyed furniture, stole property, including the personal possessions of our staff, and set fire to the main embassy office building."

Hague said it was absurd for Iranian authorities to claim the government in Tehran was not involved in an organized plot to attack British diplomatic facilities in Iran.

"No difficulty in relations can ever excuse in any way or under any circumstances the failure to protect diplomatic staff or diplomatic premises," Hague said.

"Iran is a country where opposition leaders are under house arrest, where more than 500 people have been executed so far this year, and where genuine protest is ruthlessly stamped on," he continued. "The idea that the Iranian authorities could not have protected our embassy or that this assault could have taken place without some degree of regime consent is fanciful."

Violation Of Vienna Convention

Hague also said the failure of Iranian authorities to stop the attackers means that Tehran has violated international law.

"The events are a grave violation of the Vienna Convention, which states that a host state is required to protect the premises of a diplomatic mission against any intrusion, damage, or disturbance," he said. "This is a breach of international responsibility for which any nation should be ashamed."

As of November 30, Hague said, the British Embassy in Tehran is closed and the last of the embassy's U.K.-based staff have been evacuated from Iran to protect their safety. About 24 British Embassy staff and dependents were living in Tehran. All are adults; Britain will not post diplomats to Iran with small children for security reasons.

The action marks the largest diplomatic retaliation against Iran since 1979, when the Iranian government endorsed the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by hard-line Islamists who held 52 embassy staff there as hostages for 444 days.

It also follows a souring of relations between Tehran and the West amid deepening suspicions that Tehran is secretly trying to build nuclear weapons.

Despite the severity of the British government's response to the November 29 violence, Hague said Britain still wants to maintain diplomatic ties with Tehran so that it can discuss concerns about Iran's nuclear program.

"This does not amount to the severing of diplomatic relations in their entirety," Hague said. "It is action that reduces our relations with Iran to the lowest level consistent with the maintenance of diplomatic relations."

Retaliatory Moves

On November 27, Iran's parliament approved a bill to downgrade relations with Britain, one of the United States' closest allies with diplomatic envoys in the Islamic republic. That legislation called for British diplomats to be expelled from Iran within two weeks.

The Iranian legislation is seen as retaliation against British moves last week to severe all financial ties between Britain and Iran following a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that suggested Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, an allegation Tehran denies.

Meanwhile, Norway announced that it had temporarily shut its embassy in Tehran due to "security concerns" but said it was not withdrawing its diplomatic staff. And Germany said it was recalling its ambassador from Iran for consultations following what it called the "unacceptable" storming of the British Embassy.

Written by Ron Synovitz, with agency reports


Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/britain_warns_of_serious_consequences_over_attacks_on_tehran_diplomatic_compounds/24406523.html

Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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