Iran summons ambassador over support for protesters

BRITAIN’S ambassador in Iran was summoned to the country’s foreign ministry yesterday amid growing tension over the clampdown on protesters in Tehran and other cities.

The foreign office said ambassador Simon Gass would respond “robustly” to any criticism from the Tehran authorities and would reiterate British calls for Iran to respect the human rights of its citizens.

British foreign secretary David Miliband on Monday praised the “courage” of protesters in Iran after clashes which are thought to have left more than a dozen dead.

Miliband condemned the lack of restraint shown by Tehran’s security forces in responding to anti-government protests, saying that reports emerging from the capital were “disturbing”.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards yesterday issued a statement accusing the opposition movement of being linked to the country’s foreign enemies, and the decision to summon the ambassador marks a ratcheting up in diplomatic tension between Britain and Iran.

A spokesman for the foreign office in London said Gass would “respond robustly to any criticism of David Miliband’s statement and reiterate that the Iranian government must respect the human rights of its own citizens”.

Tens of thousands of supporters of Iran’s clerical regime are reported by state media to have attended rallies across the country yesterday calling for the punishment of opposition leaders for fomenting unrest.

Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani urged the judiciary to arrest those behind Sunday’s rally, saying: “Identify them, arrest them and firmly punish those who insulted religion.”

Opposition websites reported senior aides to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi are among at least 18 leading moderates rounded up following this week’s disturbances – the worst since June’s contested elections. State television has given different estimates of the casualties, from eight to 15 dead.

Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki yesterday said Britain would “receive a punch on the mouth” if it does not “stop its nonsense”. Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Gass had been summoned to receive a formal complaint, and “some Western countries” were supporting protesters and this was “intervention in our internal affairs”.

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