LONDON, (AFP) – Iran’s diplomats expelled from London over the storming of the British embassy in Tehran this week arrived in the Iranian capital early Saturday, Iranian media reported.
The group of diplomats was kept out of sight of waiting media as they passed through back corridors in Tehran’s international airport after landing aboard an Iran Air flight.
Some 150 hardline students chanting “Death to Britain” and holding flower necklaces who were there to welcome the group did not see them either, an AFP photographer said.
The diplomats were expelled from London on Friday in retaliation for the violent incursion of Britain’s embassy and a second diplomatic compound in Tehran on Tuesday by hundreds of pro-regime Iranian protesters.
Britain, which evacuated all its own diplomats from Tehran for their safety after the attacks, closed its embassy and ordered Iran to do likewise.
It said the assault on its embassy could only have occurred with tacit consent from Iran’s leaders.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, who was at the airport to receive the diplomats, noted moves by other EU nations backing Britain.
“Now the British government is trying to involve other European countries in our bilateral issue. But we have told the Europeans not to trouble relations with Iran because of Britain,” he said, in remarks reported by Fars news agency.
The assault on the British embassy and subsequent downgrading of diplomatic ties between the two countries to their most minimum level has tipped into crisis a showdown between Iran and the West over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme.
France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy have recalled their own ambassadors from Tehran for consultations, to show solidarity with Britain. The European Union tightened sanctions on Iran and warned extra measures on Iran’s financial and oil sectors could follow.
The pro-regime protesters who went on their anti-British rampage Tuesday were reflecting official fury at new British sanctions cutting off transactions with all of Iran’s financial sector, including its central bank.
The sanctions were coordinated with similar measures by the United States and Canada.
“Iran is not the sort of country where spontaneously a demonstration congregates then attacks a foreign embassy. That sort of activity is only done with the acquiescence and support of the state,” Britain’s evacuated ambassador, Dominick Chilcott, told British media on Friday.
Foreign media in Tehran on Thursday were told covering all anti-British, pro-regime demonstrations was now forbidden — an unprecedented restriction that adds to many other reporting curbs already in place.
Iranians staged a fresh anti-British demonstration in Tehran on Friday in support of the storming of the British compounds, according to the official IRNA news agency.