Britain Orders Immediate Closure of Iranian Embassy in London

Britain's foreign secretary William Hague said Wednesday that the UK was ordering the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London, and Britain was shutting down its embassy in Tehran.

"We require the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London and that all Iranian diplomatic staff must leave the United Kingdom within the next 48 hours," Hague told British lawmakers in a statement to parliament. "If any country makes it impossible for us to operate on their soil they cannot expect to have a functioning embassy here."

The closure follows the storming of the British Embassy in Tehran on Tuesday by around 200 hard-line student protesters.

Hague said Tuesday's attack was carried out by protesters from a student Basij militia organization with links to the Iranian regime.

He added that "the idea that the Iranian authorities could not have protected our embassy or that this assault could have taken place without some degree of regime consent is fanciful."

Hague confirmed that the British Embassy in Tehran was now closed and that staff had left Iranian soil.

Hague said Britain's decision to close the Iranian embassy did not amount to the complete severing of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

He said despite Tuesday's attack, continued diplomatic communications between UK and Iran remained "desirable," but warned that the attack on Britain's embassy would not be tolerated.

"These events are a grave violation of the Vienna Convention, which states that a host state is required to protect the premises of a diplomatic mission against any intrusion, damage or disturbance," he said. "This is a breach of international responsibilities of which any nation should be ashamed."