Iran parliament votes to expel British ambassador

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Iran's parliament voted Sunday to expel Britain's ambassador in retaliation for fresh Western sanctions imposed over Tehran's nuclear programme.

A majority of 179 lawmakers voted in favour of reducing diplomatic relations to the more junior level of charge d'affaires within two weeks and paring economic relations with Britain to a minimum, according to a live broadcast on state radio.

Four deputies voted against, and 11 abstained.

The lawmakers also raised the possibility of punishing "other countries that behave in a manner similar to that of Britain."

"This bill is only the beginning," parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani warned.

The bill now has to go to Iran's Guardians Council for approval before it takes effect.

After the parliamentary bill was introduced on Wednesday, Britain said "it would be regrettable" if its ambassador to Tehran, Dominick Chilcott, were to be expelled. Chilcott took up his post last month.

Britain, whose City of London is the world's biggest financial market alongside New York, said November 14 it was "ceasing all contact" between its financial system and that of Iran.

That measure, announced in coordination with similar sanctions by the United States and Canada, came a week after report by the UN atomic energy watchdog strongly suggesting Tehran was researching nuclear weapons.

Iran has dismissed the report and insists its nuclear programme is for entirely peaceful purposes.

© 2011 AFP

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