Iran parliament votes to reduce ties with Britain

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Iran’s parliament voted on Sunday to reduce diplomatic relations with Britain, with one lawmaker warning that Iranians angered by London’s latest sanctions could storm the British embassy as they did to the U.S. mission in 1979. The bill, if it passes one further legislative hurdle, will oblige the government to downgrade ties within two weeks, forcing the ambassador out and leaving the British embassy to be run by a charge d’affaires. It comes less than a week after London banned all British financial institutions from doing business with their Iranian counterparts, including the Central Bank of Iran, as part of a new wave of sanctions western countries are imposing on Tehran.
By announcing its moves ahead of other European Union countries, Britain — which Iranians often refer to as “the old fox” — is first in the firing line for retaliation by Tehran, but lawmakers said they would push to cut ties with other EU countries if, as expected, they follow London’s lead. “The legislative branch is observing the behaviour of the British government and this is just the beginning of the road,” speaker Ali Larijani told parliament.
Lawmakers who spoke out against the bill did so because they deemed it not strong enough.
“This plan should be firmer and stronger against Britain,” Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash told the house. “Having relations with Britain, even with one representative, is a total betrayal and we should padlock the British embassy.” Ahead of the vote, lawmakers chanted “Death to England”.
Parliament’s website said there would be a demonstration outside the British embassy on Tuesday, the first anniversary of the death of Majid Shahriyari, a nuclear scientist killed along with his wife by a car bomb that Tehran said was the work of Israeli agents. In a final vote on the bill in the 290-strong assembly, 171 voted for, three against, and seven abstained, according to numbers displayed on screens in the parliament.
The bill now goes to the Guardian Council, a panel of 12 clerics and jurists who judge whether legislation is Islamic. The process usually takes from one to two weeks. If the council approves the bill, the foreign ministry will be obliged to put it into force and downgrade relations with London. In the meantime, EU foreign ministers are due to meet on Thursday to approved new sanctions on Iran. Parliament’s bill instructs the foreign ministry to downgrade relations with any country that follows London’s sanctions move.
BRITAIN SAYS IRANIAN VOTE TO EXPEL DIPLOMAT ‘REGRETTABLE’: Britain described as “regrettable” a vote by Iran’s parliament Sunday to expel its ambassador to Tehran, and warned London would respond “robustly” if the threat was followed through.
“The Iranian parliament’s vote to expel our ambassador is regrettable,” a Foreign Office spokesman said, adding: “If the Iranian government acts on this, we will respond robustly in consultation with our international partners.” “This unwarranted move will do nothing to help the regime address their growing isolation or international concerns about their nuclear programme and human rights record,” the Foreign Office spokesman said.