Envoys 'shocked' by state of British compounds in Iran

1st December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ambassadors and diplomats in Tehran were "shocked" by the extent of damage wreaked inside Britain's two diplomatic compounds by Iranian protesters this week, several of them told AFP after visiting the premises on Thursday.

"Everybody was shaken. People were pale, shocked by what they saw," one Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Britain's embassy, in the centre of Tehran, had been turned "upside down," with paintings ripped apart and windows smashed, while "everything was broken" in residences in the diplomatic compound in the north of the city, another said.

In both places, slogans such as "Down with the British" were scrawled on walls and diplomatic papers were strewn about.

Around 40 ambassadors and diplomats, most of them from European and Western nations, on Thursday filed into both compounds to inspect the outcome of Tuesday's storming of the properties by hundreds of Iranian protesters.

Foreign journalists were refused entry by Iranian police, who confiscated the camera of one news crew, and ordered to leave the vicinity.

Tuesday's rampage by the Iranian protesters occurred during pro-regime demonstrations organised to show official anger at Britain's decision last week to halt all transactions with Iran's financial sector as part of new Western sanctions over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme.

"It was tough seeing the residences. There were personal belongings everywhere. Peoples' privacy was violated," said one diplomat on Thursday.

Clothes were trampled underfoot, first-aid kits had been ripped open and their contents thrown across the lawn. "People obviously left in a hurry: lights were still on. A coat was still draped over a chair -- that was very odd to see."

At the embassy, in the once-elegant reception hall, "all the paintings were torn, with holes ripped into them. Food was emptied on to the floor, bottles of Coca-Cola were emptied."

"The place was trashed, very, very dirty," said a diplomat.

The guardhouse had all its monitors smashed with a hammer that had been left behind.

Britain responded to the storming of its compounds by evacuating all its diplomats Wednesday for their safety. It then closed its Tehran embassy and ordered all Iran's diplomats to leave Britain.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday's assaults on the diplomatic compounds could only have taken place with the approval of Iranian authorities.

Iranian officials, though, have been presenting them as spontaneous protests fuelled by historic anger at Britain's meddling in the country's affairs.

© 2011 AFP

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