Threat of 'action' by Iran as UK expels its diplomats
Published 03/12/2011 | 05:00
THE last remaining Iranian diplomats left Britain last night, having been expelled following an attack by a mob on the UK embassy and diplomatic residence in Tehran.
The assault caused outrage in Western capitals and plunged diplomatic relations between Britain and Iran to their lowest level in recent times.
Officials from the Foreign Office confirmed that the Iranian diplomats left Heathrow last night. A militia group in Tehran that is suspected of involvement in the attack on the British Embassy has pledged to give them a heroes' welcome today.
The Iranian regime has called the expulsion "hasty" and warned of "further appropriate action" in response.
Iran's foreign ministry has blamed "students" for the embassy attack on Tuesday, which involved hundreds of protesters.
Britain's ambassador to Iran, Dominick Chilcott, said yesterday that seven embassy staff were seized at a second diplomatic residence in the north of the city and briefly held captive by protesters.
The British Government insists that there must have been "some degree of regime consent" in the incident.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said the majority of the attackers were members of the Basij militia group, which is supported by the Iranian government.
The British embassy staff have all been evacuated. Germany and France both recalled their ambassadors from Tehran this week as Western powers made a renewed effort to force Iran to halt its nuclear programme.
On Thursday, EU ministers agreed to "broaden existing sanctions" against the country, which may include an embargo on Iranian oil to increase financial pressure on the regime. The US Senate also approved wider sanctions.
Staff at the Iranian consulate responsible for the official documents of thousands of Iranian residents in Britain remained at their posts yesterday as a steady stream of anxious ex-pats collected their passports and ID cards.
The staff said they did not know how long they would be able to carry on with their work, but insisted that they were not diplomats. There are around 120,000 Iranians in the UK, many of them students.
Mohammed Samie (38), who is studying electronics at the University of Bristol, was visiting the consulate to secure documents for a friend.
He said: "I am sorry for what happened to the British embassy in Tehran. I can't say what the effect of the embassy closing will be. If I want to extend my visa, I think I will have to go to the Home Office." (© Independent News Service)