British ambassador tells of terror of Tehran attacks
Britain's ambassador to Iran described on Friday the terrifying ordeal of his staff when protesters stormed the embassy and a diplomatic compound in Tehran, and accused the regime of complicity.
Dominick Chilcott was speaking to British media as Iran's diplomats left Britain following their expulsion over Tuesday's attacks, which also prompted London to close its embassy in Tehran.
"One of our staff was on his own in his keep (safe area) and he barricaded the door with a heavy safe and a bed, and braced himself against the wall," Chilcott said, describing the attack on the residential compound in Tehran.
"And for 45 minutes he could hear people bashing down the door, smashing the windows and trying to get in because they knew he was there.
"It must have been a very frightening experience -- until eventually the door gave way and they got him."
He and six other staff were taken to another building and made to sit quietly, some of them being "quite roughly handled", until they were freed, the ambassador said.
Chilcott also described his own experience of hiding upstairs in the embassy while protesters destroyed portraits of British monarchs and scrawled graffiti on the walls downstairs.
"We could hear them trying to smash the doors and buildings down below. But they couldn't get into our part of the building," he said.
"Except in one point, where they got into one of the consular offices and started a fire. And in the end it was the fire and the smoke coming up onto the third floor corridor which forced us out."
By the time the ambassador and his staff went downstairs, the crowd had moved onto the residential compound.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday that the slow response of Iran's security forces to quell the protests meant they must have had "some degree of regime consent", and Chilcott went further.
"Iran is not the sort of country where spontaneously a demonstration congregates then attacks a foreign embassy. That sort of activity is only done with the acquiescence and support of the state," he said.
He said he did not expect normal relations to resume any time soon, warning that some elements within the Iranian regime were bent on stoking up tensions for their own political gain.
He named Iranian MP Aladdin Brujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliamentary national security and foreign policy commission, and parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani.
"At the end of the day if the state decides that you're fair game there's no protection on Earth that you can provide yourself," he said.
Chilcott said however that some of those seeking confrontation may have misjudged the response to the attacks.
"They probably didn't expect us to send home the Iranian embassy in London and, reading between the lines, you can see in the way they have responded to that move, some remorse in having provoked it," he said.
© 2011 AFP