Britain shut its Tehran Embassy yesterday after evacuating all its diplomats in response to the storming of its mission the day before by Iranian protesters. The decision came after British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that “very tough action” would be taken against Iran.
Britain’s move to close its embassy was joined by a number of other Western countries, who also temporarily shut their missions.
The action marks the largest diplomatic retaliation against Iran since 1979, and follows a souring of relations between Tehran and the West amid deepening suspicions about its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. The U.N. Security Council, the United States, the European Union, France, Germany and Russia all condemned the storming as unacceptable.
In a statement to the House of Commons, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain had also ordered Iran to vacate its embassy in London by tomorrow, adding that it did not mean diplomatic ties between the two nations had been entirely cut off. He expressed skepticism at the “belated” response by the Iranian authorities to stop the protesters.
“The idea that the Iranian authorities could not have protected our embassy or that this assault could have taken place without some degree of regime consent is fanciful,” he said.
Protesters rampaged for hours in two British diplomatic compounds in Tehran. They tore down the British flag, smashed windows, trashed embassy offices, set documents on fire and briefly blocked six British diplomats from escaping.
The Iranian government expressed regret about the “unacceptable behavior” of protesters, whose attacks began after anti-British demonstrations were allegedly authorized by officials. But Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani said the “wrath of [students] resulted from several decades of domination-seeking behavior of Britain.” Italy is considering closing its embassy in Tehran and will summon the Iranian ambassador to ask for guarantees for the safety of the country’s diplomats after the assault on the British embassy, Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said yesterday. Norway has temporarily closed its embassy and Germany also temporarily recalled its ambassador to Iran for consultations.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu telephoned his British and Iranian counterparts late Nov. 29 in a bid to ease tensions. The Turkish foreign minister first conversed with British Foreign Minister William Hague and later with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
Davutoğlu was expected to meet with Salehi in Jeddah yesterday when the Hürriyet Daily News went to press. The meeting follows Tehran’s threats to attack NATO’s radar installations in Turkey if Turkey were to attack Iran. Meanwhile, an EU foreign ministers’ meeting is expected to be held today to place further sanctions on Iran.
LONDON / TEHRAN