Britain’s envoy to Iran leaves Tehran on ‘pre-planned visit’

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Robert Macaire will be updating Britain’s Foreign Secretary on regional tensions

Jan 15, 2020

January 15, 2020

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Britain’s ambassador to Iran has left the country after being briefly detained on Saturday at a vigil in Tehran that turned into an anti-government protest.

A British Foreign Office spokesperson said Robert Macaire was leaving on a pre-planned visit to update Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on recent events in the region.

The spokesperson said Mr Macaire was expected to return to Iran. It is unclear how long he will be away from the country for.

“It’s an opportunity for him to brief the Foreign Secretary on the latest on Iran,” the Foreign Office told The National.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported the envoy left after being given prior notice.

He was held after attending a vigil in Tehran over Iran shooting down a Ukrainian plane that killed 176 people. His detention sparked international outrage over his treatment as a diplomat. But an Iranian judiciary official had declared Mr Macaire a “persona non grata”.

Britain’s Middle East minister summoned Iran’s ambassador to London on Monday to express his “strong objections” to the arrest of Mr Macaire and to ensure embassy staff in Tehran would be protected.

His detention was described as “a flagrant violation of international law”.

However, hardliners in Iran called for him to be expelled and an effigy of Mr Macaire was set alight in the Iranian capital for attending the “illegal” protest.

"Based on international regulations, the British ambassador in Iran is an undesirable element," judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told reporters on Tuesday.

Prominent Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda also said expelling the ambassador would be "the best thing that can happen to him" as otherwise loyal supporters of recently killed Quds Force general Qassem Suleimani would "chop him to small pieces".

Updated: January 15, 2020 02:41 PM

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