Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Breaking News: British Embassy stormed by Iranian protesters
BBC: Protesters in the Iranian capital, Tehran, have broken into the UK embassy compound during a demonstration against sanctions imposed by Britain.
Militant students are said to have removed the British flag, burnt it and replaced it with Iran's flag. State TV showed youths smashing embassy windows.
The move comes after Iran resolved to reduce ties following the UK's decision to impose further sanctions on it.
The UK's Foreign Office said it was "outraged" by the actions.
"It is utterly unacceptable," it said in a statement. "The Iranian government have a clear duty to protect diplomats and embassies."
It later updated its travel advice to Iran, urging Britons there to "stay indoors, keep a low profile and await further advice".
After a series of ups and downs in relations following the 1979 Iranian revolution, London and Tehran restored full diplomatic ties in 1988.
Iran broke off relations the following year after Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa on the author Salman Rushdie. Partial diplomatic relations were restored in 1990 and these were upgraded in 1999 to ambassadorial level.
In 2001, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw visited Iran.
In March 2007, Iranian forces seized eight Royal Navy sailors and seven marines from their patrol boat on the border between Iran and Iraq, saying that the sailors had entered Iranian waters. They were freed the next month.
In June 2009, Britain froze Iranian assets worth almost £1bn under sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear programme, and later Iran and Britain each expelled two diplomats. The same month, Iran accused Britain of involvement in the post-presidential election unrest in Iran.
In November 2011, Britain imposed new financial sanctions on Iran, a move which appears to have led to the current situation.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry later expressed its "regret for certain unacceptable behaviour by a small number of protesters in spite of efforts by the police".
"The relevant authorities have been asked to take the necessary measures and look into this issue immediately," it said.
The students clashed with riot police and chanted "the embassy of Britain should be taken over" and "death to England".
Students were said to have ransacked offices inside the building, and one protester was reported to be waving a framed picture of Queen Elizabeth II.
Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency said embassy documents had been set alight. Staff fled by the back door, the agency added.
Pictures showed a car inside the compound on fire while several hundred other demonstrators were gathered outside the embassy's walls.
After about two hours, police seemed to be back in control of the building. Live TV footage showed riot police removing protesters.
Security forces fired tear gas, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. It said some protesters and police had been injured in the clash.
However, later reports said some protesters were still in the embassy. The governor of Tehran and the city's head of security have entered the building to try to persuade them to leave, the BBC has learned.
An unconfirmed report from the official Irna news agency said a separate group of protesters had broken into another British embassy compound in the north of the city and seized "classified documents".
Continue reading the main story
In pictures: Iran embassy protest
It was not clear how many embassy staff were in the building at the time. A Foreign Office source said it was checking on the well-being of workers and diplomats, AP reported.
There was strong international reaction to Tuesday's events.
The US condemned the attack "in the strongest terms".
"We stand ready to support our allies at this difficult time," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe also condemned the incident, adding: "France expresses its full solidarity with the UK."
Russia said the attack was "unacceptable and deserving condemnation".
Last week the US, UK and Canada announced new measures targeting Iran over its controversial nuclear plans.
For its part, the UK Treasury imposed sanctions on Iranian banks, accusing them of facilitating the country's nuclear programme
That decision followed a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that suggested Iran was working towards acquiring a nuclear weapon.
It said Iran had carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear device".
Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.
On Sunday, Iran's parliament voted by a large majority to downgrade diplomatic relations with the UK in response to the British action.
Iranian radio reported that some MPs had chanted "Death to Britain" during the vote, which was approved by 87% of MPs.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 9:29 AM