Iran's parliament today approved a bill requiring both Iran and Britain to withdraw their respective ambassadors from each other's countries, following London's support of recently upgraded US sanctions on Tehran.
Iran's relations with Britain have become increasingly strained over the past few months, largely driven by increasing tensions over Tehran's nuclear programme. The West claims that Iran is developing weapons but Tehran denies the claim.
During an open session broadcast live by state radio, 171 out of 196 politicians present voted for the bill requiring Iran to reduce its relationship with Britain to the level of charge d'affaires within two weeks.
Ismail Kowsari, a politician and one of the sponsors of the bill, told the official IRNA news agency that the bill would lead to the removal of ambassadors.
The bill needs ratification by a constitutional watchdog to be a law. It also requires reduction of the volume of trade to a "minimum" level. It allows Iran's foreign ministry to restore ambassador-level relations if the "hostile policy" of Britain changes.
Parliament's decision is seen as a reaction to London's support of a new US package of sanctions in Iran. The measures were coordinated with Britain and Canada and build on previous sanctions to target Iran's oil and petrochemical industries and companies involved in nuclear procurement or enrichment activity.
The annual volume of trade between Iran and Britain is about $500 million.
Iranian oil exports are a large component of this trade. In the first six month of 2011, Iran sold some 11,000 barrels of crude to Britain per day, some 0.5 per cent of Iran's daily production.
British Midland International airline carries some 80, 000 between Tehran and London per year in its daily flight. Some 100.000 Iranians live in Britain.