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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  • Comment number 315.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    Russia+Iran+Syria+Pakistan+China+India+Venesuela and others = the best counterbalance against USA, Europe, Israel...I support Russia's actions of my country! The U.S. and Europe will have to shut up and mopped their financial problems, and that there is no end. I'm sure that USA and Europe will forget how to begin the new war!!! Good luck!

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    MVB - " Why does everyone always look to the west ... to "fix" their problems. The US and UK should let Russia or China handle Iran"

    Oil shortages are a strategic US problem. US troops completely surround Iran which has a tiny tiny fraction of the armed forces and resources of NATO.

    You know, the idea you intend to let somebody else peacefully resolve all this and keep the oil doesn't convince

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    Unsettling times. And right before Christmas :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    Invading Iran is unlikely for a couple of reasons. Not enough resources (troops). More trouble than worth. As well as little desire to get in another war.

    However let me note that few if any tears would be shed if Iran's nuclear & missile programs were to be hit by airstrikes tomorrow or for the matter if the Iranian Mullahs were collateral damage of such an attack.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    The Persian culture is a rich and often diverse one. I have found these peoples and their long history to be of great significance in establishing what we in the west regard as civilisation. Having said this, I am terribly affraid of the course the present religous/political regeme has set its peoples upon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    I wouldn't worry too much about Iran's nuclear program.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    Hmmm, how many countries has Iran attacked since 1945? How many have US/UK attacked? Remind me who are the bad guys again? Also, they have some good reasons to be angry with the West, such as the 1953 coup d'état orchestrated by US/UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    What an incredibly stupid childish reaction! Unless the UK government shows that the Iran government instigated the attacks they look like utter and complete fools. Much like they did during Blair's occupation of the PM office.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    Fighting fire with fire.

    For heaven's sake when will children in charge of these countries grow up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    "No western european power could take them on alone in a symetrical war (non insurgent)...and the US alone would struggle for years too ...."

    It's truly amusing to read what people who couldn't tell a barrel of a rifle from its butt claim here.

    There'll be to war on/invasion/occupation of Iran. For no one is needed to remove its nuclear threat.

    A dozen of B61-11s would amply suffice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.


    You're right, Russia and China SHOULD support an Iranian revolution, but then that may encourage dissent among their own people. We don't HAVE to do anything, but since WE are the ones being threatened by the theocratic minority, it seems prudent to encourage more moderate factions.

    A stitch in time...

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    The attack on UK embassy in Iran was an Iranian government fit up, it just wouldnt have happened otherwise, especially getting in & destroying everything.

    It happened because Iranian regime WANTED it to happen, only a complete imbacile would suggest otherwise.

    Iran has been fighting a proxy war against UK/west for years, especially in Iraq/Afganistan.
    It will kick off with Iran before 2015

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    #289. Tyto alba
    For your info actually I am anti government!!I have done my share to get rid of this regime!!
    Also these acts from the west are to brainwash people like you so when they state a war against Iran you have all the good reasons to support it!!
    My post was because the timeline states how relationship with Britain has been always bad but does not state what Britain wanted to achieve!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    Never mind what they say, Iran's attacking the UK not Israel - they do not dare touch Israel but believe we'll leave them alone.

    I think it's about time we reminded Iran of Iraq and Libya; when necessary we can and will use force, so attacking our embassy was not a wise move!

    I don't think we should attack Iran yet, but now we've removed our people, it would be much easier to use force if needed

  • Comment number 300.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    If you want to see what the Iranian Government think of us, pop over to - it's run by the government and all the replies except for a few to make it appear balanced are from government cronies.

    It is not a nice place, and will be less nice with some large dangerous bombs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Well done Hague! Don't know why we talk to Iran at all considering they hang homosexuals, stone women to death and use amputations as a judicial punishment. Lovely people the Iranian elite.

    Our only theocracy is an example to all why theocracy is a terrible idea, and is also the reason the world is not going to allow them to carry on enriching uranium to weapons grade

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    they should send all the Iranian sympathisers as well

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Seems fair, this is an adult way to react to a threat. Tell them to get off British soil, whilst still maintaining some relations. It's too dangerous for British diplomats to stay, and Iran (or at least the Revolutionary Guards and Parliament...) clearly doesn't want them there, so why should they get the same privlege?


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