Iran has refused to renew the visa of a British journalist based in Tehran, forcing him to leave the Islamic Republic, and has asked The Guardian to propose a new correspondent, an Iranian official said on Saturday.
The Guardian newspaper reported that Robert Tait had been "expelled" from Iran without explanation after his visa and residence permit were not renewed. The Iranian official said the Iranian authorities did not view the move as an expulsion.
"We don't like to use that word for this case," the official from the foreign media department at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry told Reuters.
"His visa was not extended. (The ministry) welcomes The Guardian continuing its activity in Iran. We have sent a letter to The Guardian and asked them to introduce a new correspondent," the official, who asked not to be named, said.
He did not say why Tait's visa had not been renewed.
The Guardian report said Iranian authorities originally threatened to deport the 43-year-old correspondent in March because officials were unhappy with his reporting.
Tait was allowed to stay in Iran after his paper appealed against the March decision, the report said. But he has now returned to Britain with his Iranian wife after his visa and residence permit expired, the newspaper added.
The Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger has appealed to the Iranian government to reconsider its decision, the daily said.
Rights groups and diplomats say there is a broad crackdown on dissenting voices in the Islamic state, which is under Western pressure over its disputed nuclear programme.
The Guardian said another of its correspondents, Dan De Luce, was expelled in 2004 after reporting from the earthquake-damaged city of Bam without official permission. His predecessor for The Guardian, Geneive Abdo, left Tehran in 2001, expressing fears she might be punished after authorities criticised her interview with a political prisoner, the newspaper added. ( Gulf )