Britain has decided to evacuate all of its diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Iran following protests that saw extensive damage to the embassy grounds.
Tuesday’s protests left both the embassy and the surrounding residential compound severely damaged, with both UK government and personal possessions being taken or destroyed.
Britain has responded to these attacks calmly, but said that the damages were an outrage and could lead to “serious consequences.”
The official statement from the government said that “some staff” are leaving Tehran, Iran’s capital, but several diplomatic sources have told the media that all British embassy staff are leaving.
Foreign Secretary William Hague also made an official statement about a situation involving six embassy staffers being taken by the protesters. They were held for a short time, and Hague played down the incident, saying that he would not have called them hostages and that the situation was too “confusing” to make proper sense. The six embassy employees were freed by police after a brief capture.
It is reported that much of the staff in the main compound were herded into a single room while protests raged and ransacked the compound.
The two embassy compounds were “stormed” by protesters on Tuesday as part of a demonstration against new sanctions being imposed by London. The demonstration eventually got out of hand and included smashing windows, setting a car on fire, and burning the British flag.
Iran, in an attempt to smooth over relations, has issued a formal statement of regret from its Foreign Ministry.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry also said that it was committed to ensuring the safety of diplomats from all over the world. However, not all of its statements were made as a gesture of friendship, as parliament speaker Ali Lrijani criticised the U.N. Security Council for its reaction to the attacks.
Larijani said that condemning the actions, which are being blamed on students, is “hasty” and “will lead to instability in global security.”
He went on to say that the U.N. Security Council were quick to condemn because they were keen to “cover up previous crimes of America and Britain,” though he did not name specific cases.
Newspapers in Iran have been giving the attacks, which were done by “revolutionary students” according to their statements, much buzz in headlines. Many refer to Britain as “the old fox,” suggesting the widely-held belief that Britain still has behind-the-scenes Imperial influence on Iranian politics. Others compare the storming of the British embassy to the 1979 takeover of the US embassy.
In that incident, 52 Americans were taken hostage for 444 days, damaging diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington that have not since been restored.