Iran votes to downgrade UK diplomatic ties

Parliament agrees to expel UK ambassador to Tehran, after UK increases sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

    Ali Larijani, Iran's parliamentary speaker, said 'this bill is only the beginning' [Reuters]

    Iran's parliament has voted to expel the British ambassador to the country in retaliation for fresh sanctions imposed over Tehran's nuclear programme.

    A majority of 179 legislators voted in favour of reducing diplomatic relations to the junior level of charge d'affaires within two weeks and reducing economic relations with the UK to a minimum, according to a live broadcast on state radio.

    "Should Britain cease its hostile approach to Iran, then we can upgrade ties
    once more."

    - Allaeddin Boroujerdi, Iranian legislator

    Ali Larijani, the parliamentary speaker, said "this [bill] is only the beginning," the AFP news agency reported.

    The bill will now go to Iran's Guardians Council for approval before it takes effect.

    Britain, along with the US and Canada, imposed new financial sanctions on Iran earlier this month in an effort to pressure Tehran to halt its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

    The sanctions came in response to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) latest report on Iran, which highlighted fresh concerns about the possible military dimensions of the country's atomic programme.

    Iran had dismissed the UN report and insists its nuclear programme is for entirely peaceful purposes.

    On Wednesday, ahead of the vote in Tehran, Britain said "it would be regrettable" if ambassador Dominick Chilcott were to be expelled.

    'Lock on the British embassy'

    The bill's author, Allaeddin Boroujerdi, who is the head of the parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, said on Sunday: "Should Britain cease its hostile approach to Iran, then we can upgrade ties
    once more."

    Several legislators had wanted to take the bill further, by cutting off all diplomatic relations with the UK.

    "We must place a lock on the British embassy and ignore them until they come begging like the Americans,"  said Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash

    France and other EU nations were expected to unveil more sanctions against Iran at a foreign ministers meeting next Thursday.

    Paris has called for a freeze on Iranian central bank assets and an embargo on Iranian oil to be adopted.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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