UK fury as staff arrested in Iran
The UK has demanded the immediate release of Iranian staff at its Tehran embassy who were arrested on Saturday. Iranian media earlier reported that eight local staff at the mission had been detained for their "considerable role" in post-election riots.
UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the arrests "harassment" and dismissed the allegations as baseless.
Relations between the countries are strained after Tehran accused the UK of stoking unrest, which London denies. Iran has repeatedly accused foreign powers - especially Britain and the US - of stoking the unrest that swept the country after the 12 June election, which handed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a decisive victory. In the fallout of the crisis, Tehran expelled two British diplomats in the past week, and the UK has responded with a similar measure.
Mr Miliband said about nine employees had been detained in total, but some had been released. "We are still concerned about a number of them who to our knowledge have not been released... The numbers are changing hour by hour," he said on the sidelines of a European security meeting on the Greek island of Corfu.
'The idea that the British Embassy is somehow behind the demonstrations and protests that have been taking place in Tehran in recent weeks is wholly without foundation," he added.
A strong protest had been made directly to the Iranian authorities, but there had been no response.
Mr Miliband said he would discuss the arrests with his European Union colleagues. "All European countries have made clear that they want to stand together in standing up for the diplomatic principles that are important for our diplomatic activity all over the world," he said. The arrests were first reported by Iran's semi-official Fars news agency. "Eight local employees at the British embassy who had a considerable role in recent unrest were taken into custody," Fars said, without giving a source.
Some 17 people are thought to have died in street protests after the disputed presidential poll, which the opposition complains was rigged.
Posted by: tipper 2009-06-28