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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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.

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Not just Franco: Settling on a final resting place for deceased controversial leaders presents challenges

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Settling on a final resting place for deceased controversial leaders, such as Spain's dictator Francisco Franco whose remains the government wants moved from a state mausoleum, has been troublesome for many countries.

Ahead of a court ruling on Franco's case Tuesday, here are some examples:

- Soviet Union: Joseph Stalin -

On his death in 1953, Stalin was buried in the Moscow mausoleum of his predecessor, Vladimir Lenin.

Eight years later a process of "de-Stalinisation" was launched to dismantle the dictator's personality cult. His remains were quietly transferred to a more modest resting place near the Kremlin, which still attracts diehard communists.

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20,000 apply for chance to ‘vent anger’ at Hong Kong leader

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Hong Kong's embattled leader said Tuesday more than 20,000 people have applied to take part in a dialogue session with her and "vent their anger" at the government after three months of huge pro-democracy protests.

It is the government's first attempt to reach out to the protestors since millions took to the streets in the biggest challenge to China's rule since the city's handover from Britain in 1997.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Thursday's meeting would be an opportunity for people to have their voices heard but some protesters said they were not interested as their demands are already clear.

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Japan refers US military pilot to prosecutors over Osprey crash

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Japanese authorities on Tuesday referred the case of a US military pilot to prosecutors over the 2016 crash of an Osprey aircraft that fuelled sentiment against a US base on Okinawa island.

The crash did not kill anyone and only caused injuries to two of the five crew members aboard the US Marine MV-22 Osprey.

The Pentagon described the December 2016 crash as a "mishap", which saw the plane end up in shallow water off Okinawa.

But Japanese coast guard officials on Tuesday referred the case to prosecutors on suspicion that the pilot had been flying too fast, causing the crash, a coast guard spokesman said.

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