Britain outraged, evacuates its diplomatic staff from Iran
Britain has evacuated all its diplomatic staff from Iran, a day after protesters stormed and ransacked its embassy and a residential compound, Reuters reported.
Britain said it was outraged by the attacks and warned of "serious consequences."
Several dozen protesters broke away from a crowd of a few hundred outside the main British embassy compound in Tehran, scaled the gates, broke the locks and went inside. Protesters pulled down the British flag, burned it and put up the Iranian flag instead. Some took a framed picture of Queen Elizabeth.
All embassy personnel were accounted for, a British diplomat told Reuters in Washington, saying Britain did not believe that any sensitive materials had been seized.
Demonstrators waved flags symbolizing martyrdom and held aloft portraits of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has the final say on matters of state in Iran. Another group of protesters broke into a second British compound at Qolhak in north Tehran, the IRNA state news agency said. Once the embassy's summer quarters, the sprawling, tree-lined compound is now used to house diplomatic staff.
An Iranian report said six British embassy staff had been briefly held by the protesters. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the situation had been "confusing" and that he would not have called them "hostages."
"Police freed the six people working for the British embassy in Qolhak garden," Iran's Fars news agency said. A German school next to the Qolhak compound was also damaged, the German government said.
Police appeared to have cleared the demonstrators in front of the main embassy compound, but later clashed with protesters and fired tear gas to try to disperse them, Fars said. Protesters nevertheless entered the compound a second time, before once again leaving.
The U.N. Security Council condemned the attacks "in the strongest terms." U.S. President Barack Obama called on Iran to hold those responsible to account. British government was not available on the reported withdrawal of embassy staff from Iran.
The U.N. Security Council condemned the storming of two British diplomatic compounds in Tehran and urged Iranian authorities to protect diplomats. The attacks occurred at a time of rising diplomatic tension between Iran and Western nations, which last week imposed fresh sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program that they believe is aimed at achieving the capability of making an atomic bomb. Iran, the world's fifth biggest oil exporter, says it wants nuclear plants only for the generation of electricity.
edited by S. Isayev