12/03/2011

France Withdrawing Some Embassy Staff From Iran

THE NEW YORK TIMES

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 3, 2011 
 
PARIS (AP) — France is temporarily reducing staff at its embassy in Iran, and it will bring some employees and their families home, a French official said Saturday. The move is the latest result of protesters’ storming of the British Embassy in Tehran and adds to the international pressure on the Iranian government.

The French diplomatic official described the decision as a preventive security measure and acknowledged it was a response to the attack on the British mission. But he emphasized that the French Embassy would remain open and declined to specify how many people would be sent home.
About 20 to 30 French people, including some with dual French-Iranian citizenship, work at the embassy, he said. Decisions about who leaves will be made on a “case-by-case basis,” the official said. He added that the repatriations could begin as early as Sunday or Monday.
The French high school in Tehran will also remain open, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Britain says that the attack on Tuesday — by protesters angry over the proposed toughening of sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program — had the tacit approval of Iranian authorities.
The episode has prompted Iran’s most serious diplomatic rift with the West since the 1979 takeover of the United States Embassy after the Islamic Revolution, and some Iranian political figures have voiced doubt over whether anything can be gained from escalating the diplomatic battle.
Britain has withdrawn its diplomats from Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats from its soil. France announced after the attack that it was recalling its ambassador for consultations, as have Germany and the Netherlands. Italy and Spain summoned Iranian envoys to condemn the attack.
The embassy attack has helped draw support for additional sanctions on the Iranian government over its nuclear program. The United States and Western allies, including Britain, suspect that Iran is trying to build a weapons program. Tehran says it is interested only in nuclear energy.
On Saturday, the Iranian diplomats expelled from London arrived home, the official news agency IRNA reported. About two dozen diplomats and their families were greeted at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran and given a hero’s welcome by about 150 hard-liners.