Five embassy staff freed by Iran

By Liz Stephens

Five out of the nine UK embassy staff arrested in Tehran have been released, Iranian officials say.

The local employees were held over their alleged role in protests against the presidential election in Iran.

Iranian government officials have accused the UK and US of stirring up trouble after protestors took to the streets following President Ahmadinejad’s landslide election victory.

“The British embassy played a crucial role in the recent unrest both through its local staff and via media”, Iran’s intelligence minister, Gholam-Hoseyn Mohseni-Ezhei said.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has dismissed the allegations as baseless and described the arrests as “harassment”.

There is no plan at the moment to close the embassy or downgrade ties with Iran.

But the European Union warned Iran yesterday that “harassment or intimidation” of embassy staff would be met with a “strong and collective” response.

Some 17 people are believed to have died so far in the street protests that followed the election on 12 June.

In the fallout from the crisis, Tehran has expelled two British diplomats and the UK has responded with similar measures.

Yesterday, Iran’s Guardian Council began a partial recount of the poll – a move rejected by defeated opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. The process is expected to be completed later today.

Mr Mousavi insists the election was rigged and should be annulled.