LONDON – Britain's Foreign Office said Monday it was evacuating the families of staff based in Iran amid continued violence in the wake of the country's disputed election.
The decision came after repeated criticism of Britain by Iranian leaders, and an increasingly tense atmosphere following angry clashes between demonstrators and security officials.
Staff will remain in Iran for now, and the Foreign Office confirmed that it was not advising other British nationals to leave. However, it said officials are monitoring the situation with the utmost vigilance.
"The families of our staff have been unable to carry out their lives as usual. As a result, we are withdrawing the dependents of embassy staff," a Foreign Office spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy.
Iran says at least 17 protesters have been killed in a week of unrest after the electoral council declared hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winner of the country's June 12 election. Followers of his main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, claim the result was a fraud and have been staging rallies on an almost daily basis.
Riot police attacked demonstrators with tear gas and fired live bullets in the air during a rally Monday in central Tehran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has accused Britain of sending spies to manipulate the election, while the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei singled out the U.K. as the worst example among Western powers which he claims are seeking to interfere in Iran's affairs.
Britain is one of the six nations involved in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband has denied that Britain has sought to influence events in Iran.