Obama urges Iran to punish British embassy rioters

29th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

US President Barack Obama called on Iran to take "definitive action" and hold to account as soon as possible those responsible for overrunning the British embassy in Tehran on Tuesday.

Young men chanting "Death to Britain" entered the property, trashing offices, stealing documents and violently defying police efforts to remove them for several hours.

"It's important to just note that all of us, I think, are deeply disturbed by the crashing of the English embassy, the embassy of the United Kingdom in Iran," Obama told journalists at the White House.

"That kind of behavior is not acceptable, and I strongly urge the Iranian government to hold those who are responsible to task."

The incursions, which sparked international alarm and raised tensions with the West over Iran's nuclear program, only came to an end after several hours when special police units were deployed.

Iranian authorities responded quickly to the international outcry with the foreign ministry issuing a statement expressing "regret for certain unacceptable behavior by a small number of protesters."

But the United States, which cut off diplomatic ties to Iran after students stormed its own embassy in 1979, taking 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, was vigorous in criticizing the events.

"They have a responsibility to protect diplomatic outposts," Obama said, referring to the Vienna Convention, an international law regarding the neutrality and protection of missions.

"That is a basic international obligation that all countries need to observe," Obama said. "And for rioters to basically be able to overrun the embassy and set it on fire is an indication that the Iranian government is not taking its international obligations seriously.

"So obviously we're deeply concerned about that situation and expect some sort of definitive action some time very quickly," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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