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UK expels Iranian diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Video by Bénédicte PAVIOT

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-23

In the latest escalation of tensions between Iran and the West, the United Kingdom has expelled two Iranian diplomats after Tehran ordered two British diplomats to leave Iranian territory, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Tuesday.

AFP - Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Tuesday that Britain has expelled two Iranian diplomats in a tit-for-tat action after Tehran ordered two British diplomats to leave.

In the latest escalation of tensions between Iran and the West following disputed presidential elections, Brown denounced the "unjustified" step by the Islamic republic.

"It is... with regret that I should inform the House (of Commons) that Iran yesterday took the unjustified step of expelling two British diplomats over allegations that are absolutely without foundation," he told lawmakers.

"In response to that action we informed the Iranian ambassador earlier today that we would expel two Iranian diplomats from their embassy in London," he added.

And he said: "I am disappointed that Iran has placed us in this position but we will continue to seek good relations with Iran and to call for the regime to respect the human rights and democratic freedoms of the Iranian people."

The surprise announcement came after an Iranian foreign ministry source on Tuesday denied that the country's ambassador to London had been recalled, amid mounting tensions between Tehran and London.

Iran has accused Britain, and other Western governments, of meddling over the election that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power and manipulating the subsequent unrest.

Iranian student unions called off a planned demonstration outside the British embassy in Tehran on Tuesday to protest at London's "interference" after it was banned by the Iranian authorities.

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 the June 12 presidential polls.

Iranian authorities have fired off a number of accusations against the British government, prompting London to warn its nationals against travel to Iran and to pull out the families of embassy staff.

Amid the heightened tension, Britain's Foreign Office warned its nationals Monday 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.

 

Date created : 2009-06-23

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