Britain Cuts Iranian Embassy Staff
LONDON (AP) _ Britain today ordered Iran to reduce its embassy staff, keeping up diplomatic pressure on Tehran in the simmering dispute over a British diplomat abducted in the Iranian capital and later expelled.
The Foreign Office summoned Iran’s top diplomat, Charge d’Affaires Akhundzadeh Basti, and said afterward he had been told to cut Iran’s official representation from 18 to 16 by June 24.
Iran has had 18 diplomats at the embassy, although it was allowed 19. Britain also was allowed 19 diplomats in Tehran but had 18 there.
Since British diplomat Edward Chaplin was held for 24 hours in Tehran on May 28, Britain has closed the Iranian consulate in Manchester and ordered its five members staff to leave, and Iran has expelled five British diplomats from Tehran, where they had worked under the protection of the Swedish Embassy.
Britain closed its embassy in Tehran in 1980 after Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
A Foreign Office statement expressed regret that Iran had expelled the five British diplomats. It said the reduction in the Iranian staff in London was not ″tit-for-tat retaliation,″ but rather a move designed to put the relationship between Britain and Iran on a sounder footing.
The departure of five British diplomats from Tehran leaves 13 accredited representatives there, the Foreign Office said.
In a separate development, police said today they are seeking a man in the bombing death in a London store last August of an opponent of Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Press Association, the British domestic news agency, said the wanted man was Iranian. It said a pair of jeans found in the London hotel where he stayed bore traces of explosives.
Scotland Yard, the London police headquarters, would not identify the man sought by its anti-terrorist squad or his nationality.
The blast at an Iranian book and newspapers store killed Bijan Fazeli, 22, as he worked in the basement of his father’s shop. Fazeli was well known in the exiled Iranian community in London which campaigns against Khomeini.