Britain withdraws diplomats from Iran after embassy attack
Britain is withdrawing diplomatic staff from Iran after protesters stormed its embassy and a residential compound in the Iranian capital Tehran, . The Foreign Office confirmed that some of its staff were leaving, but did not say who or how many. Nor did it say whether it would continue to have an embassy in Iran or maintain diplomatic relations with the country.
An FCO spokesman said: "The prime minister and foreign secretary have made clear that ensuring the safety of our staff and their families is our immediate priority. In light of yesterday's events, and to ensure their ongoing safety, some staff are leaving Tehran.
"We do not comment on our contingency plans. We will make an announcement about our embassy at an appropriate time."
Norway has temporarily closed its embassy in Tehran. The Norwegian government said the move was because of security concerns but did not say for how long the closure would continue.
Norway currently has five diplomats in the Iranian capital, and they have not left the city, said a Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman. "They're still in Tehran," she said.
Sweden reacted to yesterday's events by summoning Iran's ambassador in Stockholm to its foreign ministry.
"Iran has a duty to protect diplomatic premises, and authorities there should have intervened immediately," said a Swedish foreign ministry spokesman, Teo Zetterman.
The Scandinavian countries' reactions follow outspoken condemnation of the attack from the US and France. President Obama said he was disturbed by the attack and urged to hold the culprits responsible.
The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said: "The United States condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms. It is an affront not only to the British people but also the international community," Clinton said at a news conference in South Korea.
Protesters, including members of the paramilitary basij brigades, under the control of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, stormed the embassy, surging through lines of riot police to break into it and a separate residential compound, the Qolhak Gardens, in northern Tehran.
Staff locked themselves in their offices and homes as the crowd ripped the gilded UK crest off the embassy, pulled down the union flag to replace it with the Iranian flag, and threw satellite dishes off the roofs of embassy buildings. They also smashed windows and burned British, US and Israeli flags.
The scenes, reminiscent of the 1979 seizure of the US embassy, prompted the foreign secretary, William Hague, to accuse Iran of breaching the Vienna convention.
He said: "The United Kingdom takes this irresponsible action extremely seriously. It amounts to a grave breach of the Vienna convention which requires the protection of diplomats and diplomatic premises under all circumstances. We hold the Iranian government responsible for its failure to take adequate measures to protect our embassy, as it is required to do."
David Cameron warned the Iranian government of "serious consequences" for failing to protect Britain's diplomatic staff.
The storming of the embassy was apparently triggered by the UK's decision to sever all ties with Iran's financial sectors, including the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), a decision that followed a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over the Iranian disputed nuclear activities. The UN agency said the Islamic regime had been engaged in nuclear activities with military applications. Iran denied the claims, saying the UN report had been fabricated.
On Sunday, The Iranian parliament, the Majlis, retaliated to UK economic sanctions by calling for the expulsion of Britain's ambassador, Dominick Chilcott, and the permanent downgrading of bilateral relations.