Britain says withdrawing 'some' staff from Tehran

Iran slams UNSC condemnation of embassy attack, says it "put global security at risk"; West demands missions be protected.

November 30, 2011 09:34
2 minute read.
Iranian demonstraters burn British flag

Iranian demonstrators burn British flag 311 R. (photo credit: Reuters)

Britain said on Wednesday it had withdrawn some diplomatic staff from Tehran after protesters stormed and ransacked its embassy in the Iranian capital.

"The prime minister and foreign secretary have made clear that ensuring the safety of our staff and their families is our immediate priority," the UK Foreign Office said in a statement.

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"In light of yesterday's events, and to ensure their ongoing safety, some staff are leaving Tehran," it added.

Earlier, Western diplomatic sources in Tehran told Reuters that Britain had evacuated all its diplomatic staff from Iran.

The events came in response to Iran's decision to expel the UK ambassador in response to economic sanctions imposed by Britain on Tehran.

The UN Security Council released a statement Tuesday condemning the protesters' actions "in the strongest terms." UNSC President Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral expressed the council members' "deep concern over the attacks" and called on the "Iranian authorities to protect diplomatic and consular property and personnel."

The speaker of Iran's parliament Wednesday criticized the Security Council statement  and said it put global security at risk. "The hasty move in the Security Council in condemning the students' actions was done to cover up previous crimes of America and Britain while the police did all they could to keep the peace," Ali Larijani told parliament in an address broadcast live on state radio.

"This devious action will lead to instability in global security," he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of the government crisis committee Tuesday to discuss the attacks which he said were "outrageous and indefensible."

"The failure of the Iranian government to defend British staff and property was a disgrace," he said in a statement.

"The Iranian government must recognize that there will be serious consequences for failing to protect our staff. We will consider what these measures should be in the coming days."

The United States, alongside the European Union and many of its member states also strongly condemned the attacks.

China also criticized the storming of the compounds in Tehran Wednesday, opening a rare public crack in outwardly amicable relations with Iran.

"China has always maintained that the safety and dignity of diplomatic personnel and properties must be ensured and protected," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing in Beijing, in answer to a question about the incident.

"The attacks in question were contrary to international law and rules, and they should be appropriately dealt with," he said.

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