Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Iranian students storm British embassy in Tehran

Iranian students storm British embassy in Tehran

Students clash with riot police after London backs harsher US sanctions against Iran

The Iranian parliament
The Iranian parliament approved a bill two days ago to downgrade relations with Britain. Photograph: Raheb Homavandi/Reuters

Iranian protesters have forced their way into the British embassy in Tehran, tearing down the Union flag and throwing documents from the windows.

The attack came two days after the Iranian parliament voted to expel the British ambassador, Dominick Chilcott, in retaliation against economic sanctions imposed by the west over the country's disputed nuclear programme.

The Foreign Office said it was "outraged" at the events and that they were "utterly unacceptable".

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported on Tuesday that a small group of students chanting "death to England" had replaced the British flag with the Iranian Flag. British and Israeli flags were also reported to have been burnt during the protests.

Another semi-official news agency, Ilna, said the protesters had "conquered" the embassy. The episode was shown live on state-run Press TV.

Around a thousand protesters gathered on the street in front of the embassy, waving pictures of the Iranian nuclear scientist, Majid Shahdirari, who was assassinated last November in Tehran.

Others held pictures of another assassinated Iranian scientist, Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, and a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Qassem Suleimani, who is said to be in charge of the group's overseas operations.

On Sunday, the Iranian parliament, Majlis, passed a bill to cut Iran's diplomatic ties with Britain and downgrade Tehran-London relations from an ambassadorial level to that of chargé d'affaires.

The move came in retaliation against economic sanctions imposed by the west over the Iran's disputed nuclear programme.

During the vote on Sunday, Mehdi Kuchakzadeh, a Tehran MP, suggested that Iranians might raid the British embassy, implying a possible recurrence of the 1979 US hostage crisis in Iran.

"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," said Kuchakzadeh.

"We must lock the British embassy and ignore them until they come begging like the Americans," said another MP, Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash, in quotes carried by the Borna news agency.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "There has been a incursion by a significant number of demonstrators into our embassy premises, including vandalism to our property.

"This is a fluid situation and details are still emerging.

"We are outraged by this. It is utterly unacceptable and we condemn it.

"Under international law, including the Vienna convention, the Iranian government have a clear duty to protect diplomats and embassies in their country and we expect them to act urgently to bring the situation under control and ensure the safety of our staff and security of our property."

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