Iranian diplomats leave Britain after protest violence

2nd December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Diplomats at the Iranian embassy in London left Britain on Friday after being expelled following the storming of the British embassy in Tehran, the Foreign Office said.

"I can confirm that, earlier this afternoon, all diplomatic staff of the Iranian embassy in London took off from Heathrow airport," said a spokesman.

"They are returning to Iran in line with the foreign secretary's statement to parliament on Wednesday."

Foreign Secretary William Hague had given Iran's diplomats 48 hours to close the embassy and leave the country after the attack on Britain's mission in Tehran on Tuesday.

Officials at the Iran Air office in London earlier said the diplomats were due to leave on a chartered flight from the capital's Heathrow international airport at about 1600 GMT.

Ahead of their departure, the Iranian flag still flew outside the Iranian embassy in an upscale area of west London but a stream of people could be seen carrying suitcases and boxes out of the premises.

A removals van was also parked outside a residential annexe to the building, while a British policeman was stationed at the door of the embassy.

Hague's announcement was made shortly before 1400 GMT on Tuesday but the Foreign Office would not confirm the exact deadline for the diplomats' departure.

"They (the diplomats) are leaving on a chartered plane from Heathrow at about 4:00 pm (1600 GMT)," an official at the Iran Air office in London told AFP.

Britain has also evacuated its diplomats from Iran and closed its embassy following Tuesday's attack, which Hague said could not have happened without the Iranian regime's tacit consent.

The Tehran protest came after the Iranian parliament voted on Sunday to expel the British ambassador and reduce trade relations with Britain in retaliation for UK-led sanctions against Iran's banking sector.

Hundreds of students rampaged for hours through Britain's two diplomatic compounds in Tehran, tearing down the Union Jack, ripping up pictures of Queen Elizabeth II and trashing offices.

The European Union piled pressure on Iran following the attack, beefing up sanctions Thursday over Tehran's nuclear programme and threatening to hit its oil and finances next.

Iranians staged a fresh anti-British demonstration in Tehran on Friday in support of the storming of the British compounds, the official IRNA news agency reported.

After attending Friday prayers in Tehran University, worshippers flocked to central Enqelab (Revolution) Square, chanting "Death to Britain" and "(We) support the seizure of the second den of spies (the British embassy)."

They also condemned what they called Britain's hostile policies toward the Islamic republic, and finished up their demonstration by setting British and Israeli flags on fire.

IRNA did not say how many people attended the rally.

Foreign media in Tehran were told Thursday that covering all anti-British, pro-regime protests was now forbidden -- an unprecedented restriction that adds to many other reporting curbs already in place.

© 2011 AFP

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