Britain backs envoy over Iran remarks

13th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's government backed its ambassador to Tehran Monday after the Iranian foreign ministry summoned him for criticising the country's rights record and for calling for the release of a top laywer.

Iran's official IRNA news agency said British envoy Simon Gass was summoned to receive a protest over the publication of an article on the website of the British embassy which was "contrary to diplomatic principles".

Alistair Burt, the British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, rejected calls in the Iranian press for Gass to be withdrawn.

"The important work being carried out by the British Embassy in Tehran has the full support of this government," Burt said in a statement.

"It is only through open and frank dialogue that we can solve the problems we face, particularly as the international community seeks to address widespread concern over the abuse of human rights in Iran."

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said it had not yet received a report from the envoy on the meeting due to the time difference with Tehran.

In remarks posted on the embassy website to mark Thursday's International Human Rights Day, Gass said that lawyers, journalists and NGO workers were "nowhere under greater threat than in Iran".

British and US flags were burnt during a demonstration outside the embassy on Sunday.

IRNA said that the Iranian foreign ministry also protested against what it called violence against students by British police during protests last week against higher university tuition fees.

© 2010 AFP

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