Report: British embassy staffers held in Iran over unrest

Iranian students protest outside the British embassy in Tehran on June 23.
Eight local staff members of the British embassy in Tehran have been arrested in connection with the country’s post-election unrest, Iran’s government-funded Press TV reported Sunday.

Asked about the arrests of the local staffers, an official at the embassy would only say, “They couldn’t come to the office today.” The person asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The embassy’s official response was that it had seen the reports and were following up on them, a spokesman said. Meanwhile, the Foreign Office in London said it had recently “received a number of, sometimes confused, reports that British nationals or others with British connections have been detained. We continue to raise them with the Iranian authorities.” A Foreign Office spokesman further added: “People with a connection to the UK have been arrested all week.” The representative declined to be named, citing office policy against identifying individual spokesmen. Last week, Tehran expelled two British diplomats. London responded by kicking out two Iranian envoys. Iran then recalled its ambassador to Britain, saying it would reconsider its diplomatic ties with the United Kingdom. Withdrawing an ambassador is a very serious gesture in diplomatic circles.

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The Iranian government has long accused other countries, especially Britain, of “meddling” in its affairs, but has offered no proof any outside forces have been involved in the unrest after the disputed June 12 presidential election. On Wednesday, Iranian authorities said they had arrested several foreign nationals, some with British passports, for allegedly helping foment the disturbances.

At the time, the Foreign Office said it was looking into the claims. It said it was aware that one of the arrested nationals was Washington Times reporter Iason Athanasiadis, who also goes by Jason Fowden. Athanasiadis holds British and Greek passports.