AP: The deadline is approaching for Iranian diplomats to leave Britain following their expulsion by the U.K. government after protesters attacked the British embassy in Tehran.
The Associated Press
By CASSANDRA VINOGRAD, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — The deadline is approaching for Iranian diplomats to leave Britain following their expulsion by the U.K. government after protesters attacked the British embassy in Tehran.
Early Friday, the Iranian flag was still flying at Tehran’s embassy in London, with diplomats given until 2 p.m. GMT (9 a.m. EST) to leave the U.K.
Tehran’s relations with Britain have become increasingly strained in recent months, largely due to tensions over Tehran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment — a process that can lead to developing nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, Iranian protesters stormed and ransacked the U.K. embassy compounds in Tehran. The incident — broadcast around the world — showed demonstrators tearing down Union Jack flags and brandishing a looted picture of Queen Elizabeth II. It has deepened Iran’s isolation and significantly escalated tensions with the West.
In retaliation, Britain ordered Iranian diplomats off its soil, pulled its diplomats out of Iran and backed new sanctions on the Islamic republic. At least four other European countries, including Germany and France, also moved to reduce diplomatic contacts with Iran.
The storming of the embassy came two days after Iran’s parliament voted to reduce ties with Britain following London’s support for the recently upgraded U.S. sanctions on Tehran.
Although host nations are supposed to ensure security for embassies, the mob rampaged for hours at the British compound. Attackers torched a vehicle, tossed looted documents through windows, tearing down Union Jack flags and replacing them with Iran’s flag and a banner in the name of a 7th-century Shiite saint, Imam Hussein.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said the attacks were “clearly premeditated” by high-ranking officials, but claimed there were “divisions within the Iranian regime” about the move.
Iran’s government has criticized the attacks. But hard-liners have spoken out in support of the protesters. Mohammad Mohammadian praised the attackers, saying they had targeted the “epicenter of sedition.”