AFP: The Foreign Office warned its nationals Monday against non-essential travel to Iran and pulled out families of embassy staff, as tensions between London and Tehran grew after disputed elections.
By Trudy Harris
LONDON (AFP) — The Foreign Office warned its nationals Monday against non-essential travel to Iran and pulled out families of embassy staff, as tensions between London and Tehran grew after disputed elections.
Iranian lawmakers urged a review of ties with Britain over alleged election meddling as students planned a protest against London's "perverted government" at the British embassy and warned of a repeat of the 1979 US embassy siege.
Centuries-old mistrust of British interest in Iran welled up once more as Iranian leaders alleged that London played a key role in fomenting the unrest that has swept the Islamic republic since June 12 presidential polls.
Amid the heightened tension, the Foreign Office warned its nationals against "all but essential travel to Iran" following "large scale demonstrations" and "violent clashes."
It also said it is withdrawing the families of embassy staff "until the situation improves."
"We do not believe that it is necessary to reduce the number of (embassy) staff at this time, however we are monitoring the situation with the utmost vigilance," it said.
Members of four Iranian student unions will stage a protest outside the British embassy in Tehran on Tuesday, Iran's Fars news agency reported.
It said the protest would target the "perverted government of Britain for its intervention in Iran's internal affairs, its role in the unrest in Tehran and its support of the riots."
The report quoted Esmail Tahmouressi, a student leader, warning that Tuesday could be another "November 4," the date when Islamist students captured the US embassy in Tehran after the 1979 revolution.
The 444-day embassy siege led to Washington severing diplomatic ties with Tehran and relations remain cut to this day.
Kazem Jalali, spokesman for the Iranian parliament's foreign relations commission, told state-run television: "We asked the foreign ministry to reduce relations with Britain in our session with the foreign minister and his deputies."
Tehran has been rocked by deadly street protests since the election returned hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power in a landslide victory hotly contested by his defeated rivals.
Accusations against Britain have been flying since Friday when Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei singled it out for particular criticism, saying London was showing its "real face."
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Sunday accused Britain of plotting for two years against the election.
The foreign ministry took aim at the BBC, along with the Voice of America, saying they were Israeli agents who aimed to "weaken the national solidarity, threaten territorial integrity and disintegrate Iran."
The BBC's permanent correspondent in Tehran, Jon Leyne, was ordered expelled by the Iranian authorities which accused him of "supporting the rioters."
Foreign Secretary David Miliband rejected charges that protesters were being "manipulated or motivated" by foreign nations and denounced what he called Iran's bid to turn the poll row into a "battle" with the outside world.
The latest events are the most serious standoff between the countries since Iran seized 15 British navy personnel at gunpoint and paraded them in front of the TV cameras in 2007.
The roots of the mutual distrust date from the 1800s when Iran — then known as Persia — was trapped in colonial rivalry between Russia and Britain.
The most flagrant Western interference occurred in 1953 when the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) carried out a coup backed by Britain's Winston Churchill that toppled nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh.
Britain is also among the strongest opponents of Iran's nuclear programme, which London and Washington insist is aimed at developing atomic weapons, a claim rejected by Tehran.