James Pheby, AFP
Last updated: 1 December, 2011

Britain expels Iranian diplomats after embassy attack

Iran has released 11 protesters detained for storming a British diplomatic compound in Tehran, a report said on Thursday, after Iran’s top lawmaker described Britain’s response as “unjustifiable.”

The Fars news agency said the protesters were released late on Wednesday after being arrested during the temporary seizure of the British diplomatic residence in Tehran on Tuesday.

It gave no source for its report.

The Iranian foreign ministry expressed regret over the incident, and a senior police commander was quoted as saying that a number of protesters had been arrested and others were being sought.

But parliament speaker Ali Larijani told state television in the clerical capital Qom: “The actions of the British government against the Iranian nation are unjustifiable,” the Mehr news agency reported.

Larijani made the comments late Wednesday when Britain ordered the closure of the Iranian embassy in London in response to its embassy and another diplomatic compound in Tehran being stormed and vandalised by protesters.

“How long must we endure the presence of the British in Iran … when they interfere in affairs that relate to the country’s national interests … and commit treachery against the Iranian people?” Larijani asked, as he denounced Britain’s “excessive” reaction.

Larijani — a hardline leader of a faction that considers itself to be close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — had on Wednesday justified the attacks, saying protesters had been angered by the British government and “decades of domineering moves by the British in Iran”.

On Thursday, the protest organisers insisted in a statement, carried by Fars, that the attack against the embassy compound was spontaneous, and claimed several protesters had been injured or arrested when police intervened.

“The student protesters in front of the den of spies (the British embassy) had absolutely no plans to seize it. It was their revolutionary rage … that provoked them,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, 25 Islamic student associations expressed “satisfaction” with Britain shutting down its mission in Tehran, according to a joint statement carried by the same news agency.

The groups said they would hold “a ceremony to thank God for the breakdown of ties between Tehran and London.”

The Iranian parliament voted on Sunday to expel the British ambassador and reduce trade relations with Britain in retaliation for fresh Western sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear programme.