Britain orders closure of Iran embassy in London: Hague

30th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain has ordered the closure of the Iranian embassy in London and has shut its embassy in Tehran after the mission was attacked by protesters, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday.

Hague also accused the Iranian government of involvement in Tuesday's attack, saying it was "fanciful" to suggest that it could not have stopped the mob.

However, he said the embassy closures did not represent a formal severing of ties between Britain and Iran, but simply a downgrading to the "lowest level".

Hague was speaking to parliament the day after protesters rampaged through two British diplomatic compounds in the Iranian capital, one of which contained its embassy, tearing down the British flag and setting documents alight.

"The Iranian charge (d'affaires) in London is being informed now that we require the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London and that all Iranian diplomatic staff must leave the United Kingdom within the next 48 hours," he announced, to supportive cheers from lawmakers.

To ensure the safety of British staff in Iran, "we have now closed the British embassy in Tehran", Hague added.

"We have decided to evacuate all our staff and as of the last few minutes the last of our UK-based staff have now left Iran."

Hague also expressed scepticism at what he called the "belated" response by the Iranian authorities to stop the protesters attacking the compounds.

"Iran is a country where opposition leaders are under house arrest, where more than 500 people have been executed so far this year, and where genuine protest is ruthlessly stamped on," he said.

"The idea that the Iranian authorities could not have protected our embassy or that this assault could have taken place without some degree of regime consent is fanciful."

However, he said diplomatic ties would continue with Iran, albeit at a much reduced level.

"This does not amount to the severing of diplomatic relations in their entirety. It is action that reduces our relations with Iran to the lowest level consistent with the maintenance of diplomatic relations," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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