Iranian diplomats fly out as Tehran threatens 'action'

British diplomat insists Iran’s government sanctioned attack on UK embassy in Tehran

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The Independent Online

The last remaining Iranian diplomats in Britain left the country last night, expelled by the Foreign Secretary, as a senior British diplomat said Iran’s government must have sanctioned Tuesday’s attack on the UK embassy in Tehran. The incident prompted outrage in Western capitals and plunged diplomatic relations with the Islamic republic to their lowest level in recent times.

Iran, however, remained defiant yesterday with a militia group suspected to have been involved in the attack pledging to give the expelled diplomats a heroes' welcome on their return to Tehran.

Dominick Chilcott, Britain's ambassador to Iran, said yesterday that that attack would have been approved by the government in Tehran. "Iran is not the sort of country where spontaneously a demonstration congregates then attacks a foreign embassy," he said. "That sort of activity is only done with the acquiescence and support of the state."

He added that British embassy staff had taken refuge in rooms designed to keep intruders at bay for long enough that local police could intervene. "What nobody knew then was that the police weren't going to arrive – they were waiting to let the intruders do what they wanted to do," he said.

Officials from the Foreign Office confirmed that Iran's embassy staff in London have left the country. Iranian embassy staff were seen packing bags into a removals van, ahead of the 2pm deadline. The Iranian regime has called the expulsion "hasty" and warned of "further appropriate action" in response.

Iran's Foreign Ministry has blamed students for the attack on Tuesday, which involved hundreds of protesters. The British Government's position is that there must have been "some degree of regime consent" in the incidents.

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said most of the attackers were members of the Basij militia group, which is supported by the Iranian government. The British embassy staff have all been evacuated from Tehran. Germany and France both recalled their ambassadors from Tehran this week, as Western powers made a renewed effort to force Iran to halt its nuclear programme.