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 235.

    5 Minutes ago
    We're being warmed up for yet another Middle East war with a country alleged to have WMD.
    Iran has a definitive ballistic missile capability, is developing nuclear technologies, and demonstrates repeated support for terrorist organisations - ever since the revolution of 1979. Why should anyone believe anything they say?

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    In a country of iron-rule, where a lone woman going out immodestly immediately gets her arrested...

    ...this many "protesters" managed to get all the way to the Embassy, and trash it?

    Hmm. Interesting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    terrible situation and as usual, it will be just ordinairy people suffering even more under that ruthless, nightmare of a regime and all for what exactly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    It's about time Iran was put in its place, we have just seen an orchestrated attack on British sovereignty, WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN THEY DEVELOPE NUCULAR WEAPONS. Will the Iranian government give or sell these to terrorists? They are no lovers of western democracy or freedom don’t give them a chance of attacking us on home soil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    All gatherings in Iran has been met with violence, rape, torture and murder unless orchestrated or approved by the Islamic fascists. To have a diplomatic ties with that regime is to have ties with those murderers. Hope the other countries withdraw their support as well and let the Iranian people deal with the Islamic regime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    What happened in Iran is outrageous, but Britain has reacted radically. Once again the west is preparing people's mind for another war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Israel, Pakistan and India all have WMDs thanks to US help and have not joined the NPT. There have been no repercussions. Iran is in the NPT but threatened with 'all possible action' should they leave. Their scientists are also being murdered: This is illegal, hypocritical, inconsistent and part of a policy designed to isolate Iran. They're anti-US. So? Aren't we all?

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    The international reputation of the UK and the US is in tatters after fighting two unjustified wars against resource-rich nations which have offered little-to-no serious resistance, while allowing Kim Jong-Il, Mugabe, and till recently Gaddafi, as well as numerous other dictators worldwide, to remain in power. Iran is a serious threat, if we don't force them into submission then we won't recover.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    It was probably going to mean getting our people out of Iran sooner or later.It will not be long before either Israel or America starts bombing the underground nuclear facilities before these people have a functional nuclear weapon.
    Their excuse of nuclear research for peaceful purposes does not hold up especially when they announce that they want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    @Bigfacedboy! Actually there is and was a western friendly Libyan centtral bank - it just happens not to be based in Libya! Gaddafi always new his day would come.

    The ANB or Arab National Bank have almost all of his assets and he has his sons all has senior titles within the bank! Still ongoing as well in some cases!

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Iran a great country with a sophisticated and enlightened culture but with (in the main) an evil leadership. What a pity

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Your illogical and fictional accusations are laughable. Do you really believe them? I am saddened that you do.
    The west should abandon Iran to the east (Russia and China), I'm sure that will work out for the Iranian people best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    No doubt it won't be long before Iran tries to "justify" these actions by copious references to the Koran and the "example of prophet Muhammad" by claiming that the diplomats were "invaders in a Muslim land" or "spies".

  • Comment number 222.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    The police state of Iran denying responsibility - funny. More likely they've overstepped the mark, again, and are desparately back-peddling.
    We must stop their nuclear ambitions before they arm terrorist groups. War would be crazy but Maybe a few targetted missiles? This time without getting Israel to do it for us please. (Remember the grief they got for stopping Syria!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    How many people in the 'west' have ever met anyone from Iran? I met a very interesting Iranian woman a few years ago, the thing I noticed more was our similarities rather than our political or idealogical differences.
    She was a very intelligent well informed person. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to meet her.
    - How touching. So much in common. Tell Mr Hague.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Here we go again with the evil regime in Iran, "supported" seemingly by China and Russia! And again the ant-West rhetoric, Just look what they've tried to do to the people in Ashraf. Westerners who support this Iranian regime should perhaps try living in Iran and see how long they last!

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.



    You might as well just leave the "debate".

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    Some people really need to realise that the evidence for the iraq war WAS CONDEMNED by the UN, and im sorry, but im 100% sure that the UK and the US has sufficient intelligence on the Iranian army to realise that they will not be pushovers like the Taliban and the Iraqi armies. To fight Iran would be practically fighting the entire population of how many millions of people that country has.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    On behalf of the majority of Iranians I apologize for the acts of a government that is not the representative of it's people. We are not responsible for the acts the Islamic Republic. The Republic of Hate and Greed.


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