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Monday, 13 July 2020

Iran MPs seek to degrade UK ties

Iranian lawmakers have called on the government to downgrade relations with Britain, pointing to frequent internal meddling and "impudent" behaviour by the country's ambassador

Reuters, Monday 13 Dec 2010
Iranian students
Iranian university students burn a British flag during a protest outside the British embassy in central Tehran. (Reuters)
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Iranian lawmakers have called on the government to downgrade its relations with Britain for interfering in the Islamic state's internal affairs, state media reported.

Britain is at odds with Iran over its disputed nuclear programme and has frequently been accused by Tehran of meddling and fomenting anti-government protests in the country following the disputed presidential election in 2009.

"Iran will lose nothing from downgrading relations with Britain ... this is the minimum cost that London should pay for confronting the Iranian nation," lawmaker Kazem Jalali told state television.

Jalili, who is spokesman for parliament's National Security and Foreign Affairs committee, said it would review ties with Britain on Sunday. However, the committee's decision would depend on the outcome of voting in parliament.

Jalili also criticised the "impudent" behaviour of the British Ambassador to Iran, Simon Gass.

"Gass wrote about violation of human rights in Iran ... ignoring the killing of students in Britain in recent protests," said Jalili. Some MPs have demanded that Gass be expelled from the country.

While some students were injured in sometimes violent demonstrations in London and other British cities over the past month in protest against higher tuition fees, none has been killed.

Another lawmaker, Hamid Rasai, called the British embassy "a nest of spies", a term usually used to refer to the former US embassy in Tehran seized by students shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"There is no difference between America and Britain and their policies ... we will take necessary measures to close down the embassy and to cut ties with Britain," Rasai told a group of about one hundred students outside the embassy, where they were protesting against Britain's meddling in Iran.

The British ambassador made light of the gathering.

"Protest by a few Basiji students ... Burned the Union Jack but at least got it the right way up this time," Gass tweeted on Monday.

Gass accused Iranian authorities of depriving the nation of "their fundamental freedoms" on the embassy's website on 9 December.

"Since last year human rights defenders have been harassed and imprisoned ... On human rights Britain and Iran think very differently," Gass wrote.

Britain has long had a volatile relationship with the authorities in Tehran. Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1989 after the Islamic revolution's late founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called on Muslims to kill British author Salman Rushdie for blasphemy in his book "The Satanic Verses". Ties were partially restored in 1990.

Iran's current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, has called Britain "the most treacherous" of Iran's enemies.

Nine Iranian staff from the British embassy were arrested and later released in June 2009, for alleged involvement in post-election unrest. The violence followed accusations by the opposition that voting was rigged to secure President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election. The Iranian authorities deny that electoral fraud took place.

Iran has repeatedly accused the United States, Britain and Israel of being behind two bomb attacks in Tehran on 29 November, one of which killed a nuclear scientists, a charge denied by London and Washington.

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