News24

UK embassy evacuates staff from Iran

2011-11-30 08:29

Tehran - Britain has evacuated all its diplomatic staff from Iran, Western diplomatic sources told Reuters on Wednesday, a day after protesters stormed and ransacked its embassy and a residential compound.

Britain said it was outraged by the attacks and warned of "serious consequences". The UN Security Council condemned the attacks "in the strongest terms". US President Barack Obama called on Iran to hold those responsible to account.

No comment was immediately available from the British government on the reported withdrawal of embassy staff from Iran.

On Tuesday, Iranian protesters stormed two British diplomatic compounds in Tehran, smashing windows, torching a car and burning the British flag in protest against new sanctions imposed by London.

The attacks occurred at a time of rising diplomatic tension between Iran and Western nations, which last week imposed fresh sanctions over Tehran's nuclear programme that they believe is aimed at achieving the capability of making an atomic bomb.

Deepening political infighting

Iran, the world's fifth biggest oil exporter, says it wants nuclear plants only for the generation of electricity.

The embassy storming was also a sign of deepening political infighting within Iran's ruling hardline elites, with the conservative-led parliament attempting to force the hand of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and expel the British ambassador.

"Radicals in Iran and in the West are always in favour of crisis ... Such radical hardliners in Iran will use the crisis to unite people and also to blame the crisis for the fading economy," said political analyst Hasan Sedghi.

Several dozen protesters broke away from a crowd of a few hundred outside the main British embassy compound in Tehran, scaled the gates, broke the locks and went inside.

Protesters pulled down the British flag, burned it and put up the Iranian flag, Iranian news agencies and news pictures showed. Inside, the demonstrators smashed windows of office and residential quarters and set a car ablaze, news pictures showed.

One took a framed picture of Queen Elizabeth, state TV showed. Others carried the royal crest out through the embassy gate as police stood by, pictures carried by the semi-official Fars news agency showed.

No sensitive material seized


All embassy personnel were accounted for, a British diplomat told Reuters in Washington, saying Britain did not believe that any sensitive materials had been seized.

Demonstrators waved flags symbolising martyrdom and held aloft portraits of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has the final say on matters of state in Iran.

Another group of protesters broke into a second British compound at Qolhak in north Tehran, the IRNA state news agency said. Once the embassy's summer quarters, the sprawling, tree-lined compound is now used to house diplomatic staff.

An Iranian report said six British embassy staff had been briefly held by the protesters. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the situation had been "confusing" and that he would not have called them "hostages".

"Police freed the six people working for the British embassy in Qolhak garden," Iran's Fars news agency said.

A German school next to the Qolhak compound was also damaged, the German government said.

Cameron calls meeting
 
Police appeared to have cleared the demonstrators in front of the main embassy compound, but later clashed with protesters and fired tear gas to try to disperse them, Fars said. Protesters nevertheless entered the compound a second time, before once again leaving, it said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of the government crisis committee to discuss the attacks, which he said were "outrageous and indefensible".

"The failure of the Iranian government to defend British staff and property was a disgrace," he said in a statement.

"The Iranian government must recognise that there will be serious consequences for failing to protect our staff. We will consider what these measures should be in the coming days."

There have been regular protests outside the British embassy over the years since the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the US-backed shah, but never have any been so violent.

The attacks and hostage-taking were a reminder of the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran carried out by radical students who held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The United States cut diplomatic ties with Iran after the hostage-taking.

Comments
  • Squeegee - 2011-11-30 09:20

    Here comes trouble.

  • sh.fish1 - 2011-11-30 09:28

    when you are in a glass house do not throw stones

  • Kgolane - 2011-11-30 09:52

    There is something you are not telling us NEWS24.... "The attacks occurred at a time of rising diplomatic tension between Iran and Western nations, which last week imposed fresh sanctions over Tehran's nuclear programme that they believe is aimed at achieving the capability of making an atomic bomb."....WHY DO THEY BELIEVE SO???

  • Kgolane - 2011-11-30 09:56

    "The Iranian government must recognise that there will be serious consequences for failing to protect our staff. We will consider what these measures should be in the coming days."... i.e. The West will be declaring war against Iran soon...and there's nothing that the rest of the world can do...coz only America should have Nuclear Weapons.

      Tom - 2011-11-30 10:16

      And Israel too can have Nuclear weapons......as usual double standards!

  • Braam - 2011-11-30 10:18

    This game will lead to war. The UK/US are looking for an excuse to bomb Iran and this is it. Watch this space…Then again, in the World today you don’t enter a country embassy, it’s off limits but Iran did it before and took the Americans hostage. Maybe it’s time for the bunker buster to do their job.

  • Craig - 2011-11-30 10:27

    Hmmmm.... An islamic fanatic and an atom bomb..... never a good combo!

      Mthuthuzeli - 2011-11-30 12:36

      This hogwash that is propagated about mad Mullahs, crazy leaders the likes of Ahmadinejad, rigged elections, and to terrorize the world with yet nonexisting nuclear warheads means that the propaganda specialists are having a hayday ! The hate and warmongers are busy looking for a reason to get at the Iranian Oil !

      Dirk - 2011-11-30 14:48

      Mtu- There is even a rumour going around that you have sense

      Fidel - 2011-11-30 16:08

      @Dirk Oneliners do not an argument make. If you don't like other's opinions, put up your own. If you don't like their arguments, dazzle us with your counterarguments. Name calling is silly.

  • andre.krige - 2011-11-30 11:32

    USA / UK will invade Iran January 2012. they are stepping up the propaganda campaign!!!

  • William - 2011-11-30 11:37

    Quite obviously stage managed by the Iranian government!!! One has to be quite stupid not to realise this!! That it was so blatantly done withouth the cops doing anything is proof of this!! How did they gain entry to the embassy??? Lets see what happens if they try to attack the Iranian Consulate in London?? They would seriously spit the dummy!!!

      Dirk - 2011-11-30 12:07

      You are quite right in your assessment about it being stage managed, but as you can see, there are a number who are to blind and stupid to see it

  • Maai - 2011-11-30 11:38

    OK now nuke them.

      Mthuthuzeli - 2011-11-30 12:48

      He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice. Albert Einstein

      Maai - 2011-11-30 13:21

      He who walks through swingdoors undressed is going to Bangkok. Confucious

  • Mthuthuzeli - 2011-11-30 12:22

    What does one expect from the Iranian public after a UK leaked report that they are in preparation of war against Iran to support US and recently announced their own sanction against Iran to please a few ?

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