Iranian diplomats leaving Britain after protest violence

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Iran's diplomats in Britain prepared to leave the country Friday as a deadline loomed for their expulsion following the storming of the British embassy in Tehran by protesters.

The Iranian flag was still flying outside the Iranian embassy in west London ahead of the deadline at around 1400 GMT, but TV pictures showed a removals van outside the ambassador's residence.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament on Wednesday that he 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.

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

No one from the Iranian embassy was immediately available for comment.

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 British embassy attack, beefing up sanctions Thursday over Tehran's nuclear programme and threatening to hit its oil and finances next.

© 2011 AFP

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