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British embassy attack ‘illegal’ says top Iran cleric

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Top Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami has sharply criticised the storming of the British embassy in Tehran by hundreds of pro-regime protesters, calling the attack “illegal,” media reports said Sunday.

“I explicitly say that I am against attacking embassies and occupying them,” he was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

“Attacking an embassy and occupying it is like invading a country and is illegal,” said the cleric, who is very close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khatami stated, however, that “we must not compare” the storming of the British embassy with the 1979 taking of the US embassy in Tehran, which resulted in US-Iranian diplomatic ties being broken off entirely.

His comments were the strongest reaction yet to the coordinated incursions of Britain’s embassy and a second diplomatic compound in Tehran on Tuesday by hundreds of pro-regime protesters.

Iranian officials have asserted that the protesters acted spontaneously in anger at Britain slapping new sanctions on Iran’s financial sector over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme.

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Another senior cleric, Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, on Saturday said it was possible that “elements” had infiltrated the protesters to prompt the backlash against Iran.

Shirazi also said his country “could pay a high price” for the embassy assault.

But Britain’s ambassador to Tehran, Dominick Chilcott, speaking after he and all other British diplomats were evacuated from Iran for their safety, said the embassy attack could not have happened without “the acquiescence and support of the (Iranian) state.”

He pointed to police inaction as the embassy and the compound were stormed, and speculated that Iran may be feeling “remorse” over the assault, after Britain ordered Iran’s embassy in London closed.

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Iran’s regime, however, has been mixing defiance with defensiveness.

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, notably, has defended the embassy protesters, saying their action was understandable given anger over “the domineering policy” of Britain.

Even Khatami, as he was leading Friday prayers, struck a harsh tone that contrasted with his subsequent comments on the embassy assault.

He instructed worshippers to add “Death to Britain” to their cycle of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” chants, and warned other Western countries not to join Britain in retaliating — “or else our nation’s hatred toward Britain will also befall them.”

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French diplomats on Saturday said they were reducing their staff numbers in the French embassy in Tehran because of security concerns in the wake of the British embassy assault.

The French, German, Italian and Dutch ambassadors have also been recalled to their respective capitals for consultations on the issue.

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Huge Hong Kong rally kicks off as public anger boils

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Tens of thousands of people rallied in central Hong Kong on Sunday as public anger seethed following unprecedented clashes between protesters and police over an extradition law, despite a climbdown by the city's embattled leader.

Protesters chanted "Scrap the evil law!" as they marched through the streets to pile more pressure on chief executive Carrie Lam, who paused work on the hugely divisive bill Saturday after days of mounting pressure, saying she had misjudged the public mood.

Crowds of black-clad protesters were marching from a park on the main island to the city's parliament -- a repeat of a massive demonstration a week earlier that organisers said more than a million people attended.

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Israel PM’s wife Sara Netanyahu convicted of misusing public funds

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An Israeli court Sunday convicted the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of fraudulently using state funds for meals, under a plea bargain which saw her admit to lesser charges.

Sara Netanyahu was found guilty of exploiting the mistake of another person and ordered to pay a fine and compensation, in a deal approved by Jerusalem magistrates' court justice Avital Chen.

Netanyahu was also fined 10,000 shekels ($2,800) and ordered to reimburse the state a further 45,000 shekels, the latter of which she will pay in nine installments, at her request.

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What does the Trump administration want from Iran?

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It was the latest in a series of assaults on tankers transporting oil through the Gulf. In May, Saudi, Norwegian and Emirati oil tankers were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, causing damage but no casualties. The attacks have gone unclaimed, so the perpetrator is unknown – at least publicly.

U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, blamed the Iranian government and called the May attacks “naked aggression.” Saudi King Salman asked the international community to “use all means” to punish Iran.

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