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 295.

    What worries me most is what happens when the bluffs get called. Turning Iran into the political nexus of evil and then taking action upon it is extremely harmful to western interest. For heaven's sake, we haven't even got an air craft carrier to send down there!

    William Hague is wearing the emperors new clothes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    272.Andrew Davis

    Congrats Mr Davis, that is the weakest excuse I've ever seen.

    And no doubt; if this escalates; they will be seeing more of their Iranian relatives - claiming asylum here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    256. L_CM
    Yes, the UK Gov would react the same way if, as in Iran, the government orchestrated the attack. And there is little point comparing the Americans' bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade - one country's behaviour does not excuse another. Its just one big game that roles ever on... that is until some loony gets nukes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    "To my astonishment, however, the mullahs seem to have more fans and sympathizers in Britain than they do in Iran."

    275 kaybraes seems to be making sensible suggestions. Everybody suggesting military action seems to have avoided any history or wondered who is to pay for yet another Middle East war over oil.

    The US has Iran surrounded with troops - that's not leftie paranoia but a simple map fact

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    To Milwaukee ray ,
    No mate the difference is here in Britain we can actually form opinions that don't actually fall in a single category unlike the us where paranoia is rife ,paranoia of anything different is the norm in most us news channels ,sadly freedom of speech hasn't come so far in your country

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    This all started when the UK unjustly, unjustifiably and unnecessarily imposed sanctions on financial transactions and banking with Iranian banks. This was a stupid move that has no reason founded in truth to back it up.
    And then, so what if they are developing nukes (which they say they aren't)? Why should America have nukes anyway? They're far more dangerous than the Iranians!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Sanaz - that is pretty pathetic: the UK has not been in the Empire business for over 50 years. Iran is not the place it was then: and it was not your Ayatollah's that stood up to us. We had a pretty decent relationship after that until you went all religious. Iran is welcome to its oil: just not welcome to have nuclear weapons nor the means to create them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    283. friendlyonewhocares
    Enough is enough from this belligerent state of Iran,time to expel ALL Iranian nationals from Britain and close the door completely on them until they learn to behave in the proper accepted diplomatic manner.
    The majority of Iranians in Britain are here for a reason: they also oppose the regime back home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    @ 220.ProfPhoenix

    Was the "intelligent Iranian woman" that you met a sufficiently "intelligent well informed person" to see through the deceptive Islamic obfuscations of the Iranian government?

  • Comment number 286.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    TO Iranians attacking the UK embassy in Iran. Let us remind you Iran that our special forces liberated your embassy in 1980 from terrorists. How dare you attack the UK embassy in your country it is an act of war against the UK . The UK tend to be on no side in middle east policies. the UK will mutter sanctions. But Israel will strike you hard. UK no comment

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    So UK express aggressiveness & hatred towards Iran, Interfere with their domestic politics, help spread the US propaganda, allegedly assist in intellectual assassinations in Iran, impose sanctions, provides weapons to ruthless regimes in Saudi, Bahrain and Israel -and now the UK embassy is attacked and we find this outrageous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    Enough is enough from this belligerent state of Iran,time to expel ALL Iranian nationals from Britain and close the door completely on them until they learn to behave in the proper accepted diplomatic manner.
    One cannot,must not pacify this delinquent regime.

  • Comment number 282.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Re #268: "Try make friends with our enemies. Sure fire way not to be targeted in the future."

    "Mr. Hitler is a reasonable man and European leaders would do well to accommodate him".

    (Mahatma Gandhi -1938)

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    These were not students. It seems obvious that they were part of an Iranian setup, hence the convenient failure of security. As a half-Iranian myself, common Iranians are generally not particularly hostile to the UK. The country is fairly West-friendly, for the middle east. They love our music, films, and of course our football. Most of all, real Iranian students want freedom and democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.


    'We should do as Ron Paul GOP suggested. Try make friends with our enemies. Sure fire way not to be targeted in the future.'

    Iran is not our enemy, they just know we're trying to set them up for invasion. What do you expect? For them not to react? They know as well as we do that we're going to invade them no matter what, and steal their oil economy, natural gas & gold.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    ..........shame your too ignorant to understand.
    Ignoring your insults & spelling, I make no reference to remembrance day. I`m not from UK but do understand the significance of ending the war in Japan. I would suggest those who fought wanted for a better world in where peace is sought & not war

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    The Western world missed a golden opportunity to support the green uprising in 2009.
    Why the Western world? Didn't the Arab world miss this, or the Eastern world? Why does everyone always look to the west or the US to "fix" their problems. The US and UK should let Russia or China handle Iran

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    I began reading these comments expecting to see universal British outrage over the ransacking of your embassy and the manhandling of your diplomats. To my astonishment, however, the mullahs seem to have more fans and sympathizers in Britain than they do in Iran.


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