EU condemned the detentions
as 'harassment and intimidation'
By William J. Kole, Associated Press Writer – 1 min ago
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Iranian authorities have barred journalists for international news organizations from reporting on the streets and ordered them to stay in their offices. This report is based on the accounts of witnesses reached in Iran and official statements carried on Iranian media).
Iran dismissed the idea of downgrading diplomatic relations with Britain on Monday despite soaring tensions between the two countries after Iranian authorities detained local British Embassy employees for allegedly stirring up post-election unrest. Britain has angrily denied that any Iranian staff at its embassy in Tehran have been involved in opposition challenges to the regime. On Sunday, the European Union condemned the detentions as "harassment and intimidation" and demanded the immediate release of those still in custody.
Iran has accused the West of stoking unrest, singling out Britain and the United States. Both countries have expressed concern about the ferocity of the regime's crackdown on supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims he was robbed of victory in a June 12 presidential election through massive and widespread vote fraud. Iranian officials had said they were considering downgrading ties with Britain, which expelled two Iranian diplomats last week — a retaliatory move after Iran ousted two British envoys.
But in a press conference broadcast on state television Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said: "Reduction of diplomatic ties is not on our agenda for any country, including Britain." Qashqavi said Iranian officials have been in written and verbal contact with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and that he has assured Tehran that Britain would not interfere in Iranian affairs. He said nine embassy employees were arrested and five later released, and that the four still in custody were under interrogation. - AP