UK expels Iranian diplomat

BRITAIN said yesterday it had ordered the tit-for-tat expulsion of an Iranian diplomat in response to the expulsion of a British envoy from Tehran last month. The move is in addition to the unrelated expulsion of three Iranians from Britain for national security reasons three weeks ago, and is the latest indication of the sharp deterioration in Anglo-Iranian relations over the past two months.

Ali Rajavi, a first secretary at the Iranian embassy in London, has been given until 25 August to leave the country, British officials said. Such a move had been expected since the expulsion of Alex Brammer, a third secretary at the British embassy in Tehran, who was arrested on 'spying' charges in June and expelled the following month. British officials said the difference in seniority was because the Iranian embassy here had no diplomat here of equivalent rank to that of Mr Brammer.

With a total of five diplomats expelled since July, a British diplomat conceded: 'There are continuing difficulties in our relations. We'd like to see an improvement, but that would have to come from the Iranian side.' Since Mr Brammer's arrest, relations have reached their lowest point since they were resumed two years ago after the break over Iran's fatwa against the author Salman Rushdie. Britain has vehemently denied the spying charges against Mr Brammer, which seem to amount to his having arranged a squash game with an Iran Air pilot.

Of the three Iranians ordered expelled on 24 July, one was accused of involvement in a plot to kill Mr Rushdie and the other two of interfering in Britain's internal affairs. British intelligence sources have confirmed to the Independent that those expulsions had nothing to do with the Brammer affair. But given that Iran claims they did, it is possible it will retaliate with further expulsions. There are now 11 diplomats left at the British embassy in Tehran, and seven, soon to be six, at the Iranian embassy here.

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