30 November 2011
Several European countries have taken strong measures against Iran following the storming of the UK Embassy in Tehran by a mob. Britain closed its diplomatic mission on Wednesday after evacuating all UK-based staff from Iran. British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the government had ordered all Iranian diplomats in London to vacate the embassy and leave the country within 48 hours. The pull-out of British embassy staff from Iran was now completed, Hague said.
On Tuesday, protesters had rampaged for hours through the UK’s two diplomatic compounds in Tehran. They tore down the British flag, smashed windows, trashed offices, set documents alight, and briefly blocked the movements of six British diplomats. No personnel was hurt, having taken refuge in secure areas. Iranian police, initially inactive, ultimately forced the protesters to leave after firing tear gas and clashing with them.
Speaking to parliament on Wednesday, Hague expressed scepticism at what he called the "belated" response by the Iranian authorities to stop the protesters attacking the compounds. "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." He said diplomatic ties would continue with Iran, albeit at a much reduced level. "This does not amount to the severing of diplomatic relations in their entirety. It is action that reduces our relations with Iran to the lowest level consistent with the maintenance of diplomatic relations," Hague told lawmakers.
The Norwegian government also closed its diplomatic mission in Tehran. Several other European countries, including Germany, recalled their ambassadors in Iran for consultations, and lodged strong protests with the Iranian government. European Union foreign ministers are to meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss further measures against Iran.
On Wednesday, Tehran expressed regret about what it called the "unacceptable behavior" of protesters, although the attacks began after anti-British demonstrations authorized by authorities. However, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said that the "wrath of (students) resulted from several decades of domination-seeking behavior by Britain." Larijani also called the UN Security Council's condemnation of the embassy attack a "hasty move."
On Sunday, Iran's parliament had approved a bill to downgrade diplomatic relations with Britain.
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