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 355.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    Re:Moosab 346
    When countries threaten each other not everything is about your religion. You have no right to negate others humanity others laws and others borders because you have a religion - its not just about you and it is not a war on muslims - a largely secular society doesn't care what you worship as long as its not just your own ass

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    Ahmadinejad has created this whole thing in order to manipulate his own people for his own reasons
    He is in a power struggle with the religous leaders and this looks like a power play
    He was there in 1979, a leader in the attack against the US embassy

    Manipulation of his followers, if they get angry enough they will kill who he wants them to kill.


  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    doubt i can post, thisd bloody thing is not working properly

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    People who attacked the embassy were supported by the Iranian government undoubtedly. They have been paid to do such things. There is no connection between these people and other Iranians. they even spy on their own friends and relatives.

    War is not the solution. Just cut all political relations with the Iranian government. I do not understand why you invite Iranian fake president to the UN.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    Attacking Iran would be a suicide for the West. Another crazy war for the sake of Israel which is the real master in Washington and London.

    China, this time, would not allow such a move without responding.

    The same for Russia. Russia is tired of the american and zionist imperialism

    Europe should simply get rid of the US influence. It's like continuing to stay on a Titanic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    what can we expect, iraqe kept them quiet for decades, Iran has also been waging many verbal wars for decades, what now with our financial sectors on verge of collapse, I question if they even perpetuated most of the financial melt down so as to promote there singular minded ideals. We can respond with the same threat, but have our politicians got the same amount of guts to act with same vigour?

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    342. Cobalt Stargazer


    Its been going on since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Islam - with its deep seated hatred of Jews and infidels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    #333 yes and Himmler/Hitler knew it well also.

    Very 1930's this Zionist conspiracy lark ;-)

    I don't seriously get why Israel is blamed for Iran. If it sold them the centrifuges and Uranium and helped their "civilian" program enrich uranium to weapons grade (weapons grade but they don't want a bomb??!!) then Israel would be culpable. As it is you have to stretch reality to blame Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    Is the expulsion of diplomats a pre-cursor to another middle east war? It' s how recent wars e.g. Iraq, Libya etc started.

    Brace yourselves middle eastern Muslims. The enduring wars against Muslim countries is not yet over. Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan et all are possible targets and in the cross hairs of their friends, fair weather friends and enemies

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.


    Russia never want to have the war!!! But if USA and Europe want that. They always wanted to have resources of my country. I remember how Margaret Tatcher told one day: "There should be just only 50 million people in Russia It will be enough..." is it normal for western democracy???

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    Israel obtained its nuclear technology from France. Pakistan stole its in Western Europe (Khan Ring). India got its nuclear wherewithal from its then staunch ally - Soviet Union.

    I thought the Pakistan capability came from the Chinese helping them in Kubota.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    331- Powermeerkat - Would that be the illegal development of Israeli nuclear weapons carried out underneath one of their own nuclear power stations. Claimed illegal by the IAEA and the international community but ignored by Israel.
    You really can't see the hypocrisy ?

  • Comment number 342.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    Isolating iran is unlikely to make Iran comply. Diplomacy and negotiations may be a better option.
    - Akhila Raman

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    There are far too many people on this site wishing to rattle sabres and let loose the dogs of war. If you have ever pissed your pants in terror, held a gun in the field and know the smell of gun powder in your nose, then urge all those whom would argue the benefits of armed aggression to consider the terrible price.

  • Comment number 339.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    It's amazing how quickly some assume that the expulsion of diplomats automatically means we are on the brink of war!

    The UK has reacted in a measured way to an unjustified incursion onto its sovereign territory, by expelling Iranian diplomats.

    That is all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    The big difference between our Radical Muslim Brothers and others is the length of time they hold hatred and animosity, 50 100 200 or a thousand years, there is no difference to them
    They are unable to reach a state of serenity and forgiveness
    Iran's political manipulators have that to use to keep their people stirred up
    This is meant to stop the peace seekers within their borders & stir up hate

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    Expected borrowing up. Less 'growth' than expected. Eurozone an economic mess. West not yet overcome the economic mess created by having a deragulated banking system. Public sector looking like it is getting a bit uppity for the government. What can Cammy do to get everyone saying things to support a weakening government? Oil. Argentines not looking at Falklands too much. I bet Iran cops it!


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