UK to expel all Iranian diplomats over embassy attack


Foreign Secretary William Hague: "We require the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London"

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The UK is to expel all Iranian diplomats following the storming of its embassy in Tehran, Foreign Secretary William Hague has announced.

He said he had ordered the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London.

Tuesday's attack by hundreds of protesters followed Britain's decision to impose further sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

The sanctions led to Iran's parliament reducing diplomatic ties with the UK.

Mr Hague said he was demanding the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London, with all its staff to leave the UK within 48 hours.

"If any country makes it impossible for us to operate on their soil they cannot expect to have a functioning embassy here," Mr Hague told MPs.

He said there had been "some degree of regime consent" in the attacks on the embassy and on another UK diplomatic compound in Tehran.

He said all UK diplomatic staff in Tehran had been evacuated and the embassy closed.

Mr Hague said relations between the UK and Iran were now at their lowest level, but the UK was not severing relations with Tehran entirely.


In Iran's iconography of villainy, Britain holds a special place. The UK is seen as the mastermind behind the overthrow of previous Iranian governments. Conservative hardliners believe Britain has in its blood the desire to decide who rules Iran.

But, somehow, Britain and Iran have usually managed to keep their diplomatic relations going. Among ordinary Iranians there is a degree of affection for British people.

During the administration of President Mohammad Khatami, which began in 1997, diplomatic ties produced a reasonable degree of understanding. But in recent years, under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, those ties grew much more strained.

Now the drawbridge has been pulled up. The empty embassies in London and Tehran won't bother conservative hardliners in Iran's establishment. They feel little need for dialogue. These are the same people who have led Iran's pursuit of a nuclear programme.

Addressing parliament, Mr Hague said he was due to raise the matter at a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

"We will discuss these events and further action which needs to be taken in the light of Iran's continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons programme," he said.

Iran's foreign ministry called the British move "hasty", state TV reported, according to Reuters.

It said Iran would take "further appropriate action".

Also on Wednesday, Germany, France and the Netherlands announced they were recalling their ambassadors to Tehran for consultation and Norway said it was temporarily closing its embassy there as a precaution.

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said the Iranian ambassador to Rome was being summoned to give guarantees of security for Italy's mission in Tehran.

Hundreds of protesters - whom Iran described as "students" - massed outside the embassy compound on Tuesday afternoon before scaling the walls and the gates, burning British flags and a car.

Another UK diplomatic compound in northern Tehran, known locally as Qolhak Garden, was also overrun and damaged.

Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, says Iranian police attempted to stop the attacks

Iran said it regretted the incident, which it described as "unacceptable behaviour by a small number of protesters".

Mr Hague said the majority of those taking part had been members of a regime-backed Basij militia group.

He said the private quarters of staff and the ambassador had been ransacked, the main embassy office set on fire and personal possessions belonging to UK diplomats stolen.

The US, EU and UN Security Council also condemned the attacks.

Turbulent history

Relations between the UK and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been fraught since the Iranian revolution in 1979.

Wednesday's move brings bilateral relations to their lowest level since 1989 when ties were broken over Iran's declaration of a "fatwa" (edict) to kill the author Salman Rushdie.

Office at British embassy in Tehran ransacked. 29 Nov 2011 New pictures have emerged of offices at the British embassy being searched by protesters

Analysts have compared Tuesday's scenes in Tehran to the 1979 storming of the US embassy there. That ended with more than 50 US diplomats and staff being held hostage for more than 400 days.

The US and Iran have had no diplomatic ties since then - the Swiss embassy in Tehran serves as the protecting power for US interests in the country.

Last week the US, Canada and the UK announced new sanctions against Iran, including measures to restrict the activities of the Iranian central bank.

The UK said then it was severing all financial ties with Iran.

The move followed a report by the UN's nuclear watchdog (IAEA) that said Iran had carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear device".

Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

On Sunday, Iran's parliament voted by a large majority to downgrade diplomatic relations with the UK in response to the recent action.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    What ambassadors experienced yesterday, is what hundreds of Iranians are experiencing in their life! People here are confused and know nothing to do. Everywhere is that kind of "students" that are given the right to kill people from "Khamenei, the appointee of God in the earth". I, as a Kurd that lives in Iran am so sorry for what happened. We respect all the British people and what they respect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    Its funny how quick the UK/US are on taking action against Iran and speaking in hatred towards a country. When the same thing happened in Pakistan or India or even UK as in Riots, I don't recall them closing down the embassy and cutting ties. Even in Afganhistan with the Taliban I don't recall US walking away. They definitely are trying to find stupid reasons to start another war!

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    The fact the Iranian regime organised this attack on our embassy shows conclusively that sanctions are hurting them. Otherwise they would not have bothered to order their thugs out onto the street.
    Evidently we need to turn the screw even more on these mad mullahs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    Reading through the comments, it struck me as odd that some do not believe Iran can ever have nuclear weapons. If you think about it, missiles, nuclear weapons, and the like, are metaphors for the realities they believe are at the roots of Islam. There is also the fine art of political and physical deception, something that has had centuries to develop, about

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Iran is a backward country in the way it treats its people.I wouldnt be surprised if war starts as iran and thier weapons are getting better and we need to stop them now before it to late

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    With respect .. we do not have to look too far back in history. If any leader of a country vows to 'wipe off the planet' another country, then they have no business with nuclear weapons. In fact they are the one that have no place in the world. Iran (and its leaders) are acting like spoilt kids and this tit for tat could very easily escalate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    Iran has NO representative government and has stated that it wishes to annihilate Israel and with nuclear weapons it could have a good try at it. Israel would retaliate and we would have war. It is a vicious and dangerous rogue state We should have invaded Iran rather than Iraq. The UN should expel them.

  • Comment number 208.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Look!!!! My first post (1 Mark) was meant as a rhetorical question - i.e. one designed to provoke debate - which it has done.

    Can you stop down rating it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    42 Minutes ago

    Good for the goose , good for the gander ?
    If the British public stormed the Iranian Embassy and burnt their flag there
    would be uproar , yet we have to take it."

    actually, britain, against international law, had failed to protect the Iranian Embassy from six hostage takers (another lot of nutters) in 1980. Remember SAS successful siege?

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    History just repeats itself: Russian embassy slaughter in 1829, look up Aleksander Griboyedov.
    Suppose British staff were spared this time.

    If we MUST have a compound there it should be HEAVILY protected, because the local government does nothing - only issues an apology afterwards.

    I've heard that Iran used to be a civilised country some 30-40 years ago, until the fanatics took power

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    @192 sa1051, it's certainly not been invaded by thinkers.

    People really need to look beyond the headlines, and look back at history. We've been here before, and in the last decade.

    For some reason, I doubt I'll celebrate my 40th before the next time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Those so called "students" are the same thugs who beat people in the streets and crashed public properties to create evidence of vandalism for the peaceful protesters after the 2009 election in Iran. Every Iranian knows these are the Basijis controlled and under full support of the regime and protected by security forces. Please stop calling them "people", "students", or even "protesters".

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    Are there some ageing SAS men who are wondering why they bothered to recapture the Iranian Embassy in 1980 ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.


    Why don't you just declare war right now ...and paint a huge bullseye in the middle of the UK.

    The Euro is about to collapse, we have already had 3 middle eastern wars this decade ... and you want to start another one.


  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Why is everybody scared of nuclear energy just as an energy source? 90% of France's electricity is nuclear and how many accidents and deaths have there been? Nothing even compared to the gas and coal industries. Save the planet, nuclear rarely wages war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    iranian masterplan. to annihilate almost an entire indigenous peoples. claim the land as their own. create a new nation. declare itself world leaders with entirely peaceful intentions. move on to the next commodity loaded land. justify its destruction and destabilisation. reap profits from its natural resources. all in the name of peace. sounds familiar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    I had a comment removed for stating that CIA in collusion with Britain installed a dictatorship in Iran in 1953 so it's no wonder they have a beef with us and that there is no "western banker friendly" dominated central bank there, just like there wasn't in Iraq or Libya and still isn't in N Korea, which will be next once we are at war with Syria followed by Iran, Pakistan and China.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    173 " I suggest you read Invasion by DC Alden"

    I suggest you read something other than frothing at the mouth warmongering gibberish.

    We're being warmed up for yet another Middle East war with a country alleged to have WMD - this time wholly surrounded by US troops (yes looking at a map really might help you here) with all that of oil, at a time when the world is running out of energy reserves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Evidence of a continuing nuclear weapons program must be taken seriously.

    "I was taught to be sure of my facts...
    In war, decisions almost always have to be taken on incomplete knowledge, if you wait until your certain... your sure to be too late." - Operation Crossbow ( the 1965 film )


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