Iran’s parliament voted to downgrade ties with Britain on Sunday in retaliation for Western sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear programme, and warned that relations with other EU countries were to follow.
REUTERS - Iran’s parliament voted on Sunday to reduce diplomatic relations with Britain, with one lawmaker warning that Iranians angered by London’s latest sanctions could storm the British embassy as they did to the U.S. mission in 1979.
The bill, if it passes one further legislative hurdle, will oblige the government to downgrade ties within two weeks, forcing the ambassador out and leaving the British embassy to be run by a charge d’affaires.
It comes less than a week after London banned all British financial institutions from doing business with their Iranian counterparts, including the Central Bank of Iran, as part of a new wave of sanctions western countries are imposing over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
By announcing its moves ahead of other European Union countries, Britain – which Iranians often refer to as “the old fox” – is first in the firing line for retaliation by Tehran, but lawmakers said they would push to cut ties with other EU countries if, as expected, they follow London’s lead.
“The legislative branch is observing the behaviour of the British government and this is just the beginning of the road,” speaker Ali Larijani told parliament.
Lawmakers who spoke out against the bill did so because they deemed it not strong enough.
“This plan should be firmer and stronger against Britain,” Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash told the house. “Having relations with Britain, even with one representative, is a total betrayal and we should padlock the British embassy.”
Another member went even further, invoking the storming of the U.S. embassy – dubbed the “den of spies” – by students in the 1979 Islamic revolution. The hostage crisis lasted for 444 days and set the tone for rock-bottom relations between Tehran and Washington ever since.
“The British government should know that if they insist on their evil stances the Iranian people will punch them in the mouth, exactly as happened against America’s den of spies, before it was approved by officials,” Mehdi Kuchakzadeh said.
Ahead of the vote, lawmakers chanted “Death to England”.
The British foreign ministry called the parliament vote “regrettable”.
“This unwarranted move will do nothing to help the regime address their growing isolation or international concerns about their nuclear programme and human rights record. If the Iranian government acts on this, we will respond robustly in consultation with our international partners,” it said.
Iranian state radio said there would be a demonstration outside the British embassy on Tuesday, the first anniversary of the death of Majid Shahriyari, a nuclear scientist killed along with his wife by a car bomb that Tehran said was the work of Israeli agents.
London and Washington announced new sanctions after a U.N. nuclear agency report suggested Iran had worked on an atomic bomb design. Tehran maintains its work is entirely peaceful and said the report was based on false Western intelligence.
That report and U.S. allegations of an Iranian-backed plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington have further soured relations between Iran and the West, with Israel and the United States saying military action is still an option.
Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said Israel could expect up to 150,000 missiles to rain down on it if it attacks Tehran and said the United States should not expect Iran to fall easily.
“America should not think it staged war in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Vahidi said in a speech carried by the Fars news agency. “Iran is strong enough to show America a war, to give it a lesson on war to understand what fighters are and what war is.”
In a final vote on the bill in the 290-strong assembly, 171 voted for, three against, and seven abstained, according to numbers displayed on screens in parliament.
The bill now goes to the Guardian Council, a panel of 12 clerics and jurists who judge whether legislation is Islamic. The process usually take one to two weeks. If the council approves the bill, the foreign ministry will be obliged to put it into force and downgrade relations with London.
In the meantime, European Union foreign ministers are due to meet on Thursday to approved new sanctions on Iran.
Paris has proposed banning oil imports to the bloc, which accounted for 18 percent of Iranian oil purchases in the first half of 2011, and the Netherlands is pushing for the EU to follow London’s move on sanctioning the Iranian central bank.
Parliament’s bill instructs the foreign ministry to downgrade relations with any country that follows London’s sanctions move.
Date created : 2011-11-27