UK blasts Tehran over ‘outrageous’ embassy attack

But experts say embassy ‘theatrics’ were stage-managed by Iranian regime
UK blasts Tehran over ‘outrageous’ embassy attack
Iranian hardliners burn the British flag outside the embassy in Tehran on Nov 30, 2011
By Bloomberg
Wed 30 Nov 2011 07:49 AM

Iranian
protesters stormed the British Embassy complex in Tehran Tuesday, calling for
“death to the UK” and burning its flag, a week after the US and Britain imposed
additional sanctions due to Iran’s nuclear program.

The
incursion lasted less than two hours before the protesters were cleared out by
police, according to the Associated Press. Detained protesters will be brought
before judiciary authorities, the state-run Mehr news said, citing Tehran’s
police chief, Hossein Sajedinia.

UK
Prime Minster David Cameron, in a statement, said all embassy personnel have
been accounted for after the attack, which he called “outrageous and
indefensible.”

“The
Iranian Government must recognize that there will be serious consequences for
failing to protect our staff,” Cameron said.

Earlier,
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister
Ali Akbar Salehi “to protest in the strongest terms” and to “demand immediate
steps to ensure the safety” of the embassy staff.

Hague
said his Iranian counterpart said he was “sorry” for what happened.

The
Guardian Council, Iran’s highest legislative body, on Nov 28 endorsed
parliament’s move to downgrade diplomatic ties with Britain, including the
expulsion of its ambassador, after the UK expanded its sanctions last week.

The
protest took place on the first anniversary of the killing in Tehran of Majid
Shahriari, a nuclear scientist, for which Iran has blamed foreign intelligence
services, including the UK’s. State media said the numbers involved at the
embassy were in the hundreds.

The
protesters’ action is “all part of regime posturing, but regime posturing with
a harder edge to it,” said Scott Lucas, an Iran expert at the University of
Birmingham in England, noting that they carried photographs of Shahriari. “It
was all stage-managed; they were allowed to go in and cause a ruckus and then
they were cleared out.”

The
US and allies including the UK have said Iran is seeking to develop atomic
weapons
under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad said this month that Iran won’t withdraw “an iota” from its atomic
program and dismissed a United Nations report showing the country continued
working on nuclear weapons capability until at least last year.

At
the embassy compound, six workers were freed after being surrounded by
protesters, state-run Fars news said. Embassy staff left through a back door to
escape the demonstrators, who replaced the UK flag with an Iranian one, Mehr
said.

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Iran’s
Foreign Ministry said the actions of a “small” number of protesters were
“regrettable,” Mehr reported.

In
Washington, President Barack Obama called on Iran to ‘hold those who are
responsible to task.’’

“For
rioters essentially to be able to overrun the embassy and set it on fire is an
indication that the Iranian government is not taking its international
obligations seriously,” he said to reporters in the Oval Office.

After
the 1979 revolution that ousted pro-western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and
brought Shiite Muslim clerics to power, students seized the US Embassy in
Tehran and held 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days, leading the US to sever ties
with Iran. The revolt in Iran, now home to about 10 percent of the world’s oil
reserves, sent the price of Saudi Arabia’s Arab light crude to about $34 a
barrel at the end of 1980 from $14 two years earlier, according to data
compiled by Bloomberg.

Lucas
cautioned against drawing parallels between the storming of the US Embassy and
yesterday’s incident.

“Recognize
this for the theatrics that it is,” he said. “This is the act of a defensive
regime, not one that is feeling confident.”

The
protesters who entered the embassy property want a “complete halt of relations
between Iran and the U.K,” they said in a statement carried by Fars.

The
UK joined the US and Canada this month in tightening punitive measures against
Iran over its nuclear program, adding to four rounds of UN Security Council
sanctions by targeting the country’s oil industry and its central bank.
European Union foreign ministers are set to meet Dec. 1 to discuss Iran.

Shahriari
is among several scientists and officials linked to the nuclear and missile
programs have been the target of attacks in the last two years. The US and its
allies say Iran’s is secretly trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its
nuclear work is for civilian purposes.

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