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Iran asked to investigate shooting incident at British embassy

The British government said Wednesday that it was asking Iranian authorities to investigate a shooting incident at the British Embassy in Tehran, IRNA reported from London.

A Foreign Office spokesman in London told IRNA that British Ambassador Richard Dalton had been in contact with the Iranian Foreign Ministry about the incident.

"It was too early to speculate who was responsible," he said. The investigation comes after five shots were reported to have been fired from the street at the embassy compound at midday local time.

Bullets were said to have hit the first and second floor of the building but no one was injured in the incident.

The spokesman said that the embassy had closed for business, but emphasized that this was just "temporarily."

The incident came after Britain denied that there were any plans to recall its ambassador to Tehran following Iranian Ambassador Morteza Sarmadi returning for "consultations" over the arrest of former Iranian ambassador to Argentina Hadi Soleimanpour.

The Foreign Office spokesman said that he was aware of "no plans" to withdraw Dalton, who cut short his holiday last week to return to Tehran over the diplomatic crisis.

He said that Sarmadi left Britain "on his own volition" and that "it was up to Iran whether his recall represented a downgrading of relations."

BBC correspondent in Tehran Jim Muir said Wednesday there was speculation that Iran was considering to expel the British ambassador over the row.

The latest diplomatic dispute follows the arrest of Soleimanpour former Iranian ambassador to Buenos Aires on a provisional extradition warrant from Argentina and the refusal by a British court to grant his release on bail.

In a previous major row, Britain effectively downgraded relations with Iran for eight months over the nomination of a replacement ambassador to Tehran until a compromise agreement was reached to appoint Dalton in September 2002.

Soleimanpour, who has been studying a PhD at Durham University, north-east England, for over two years, was arrested on August 21 and continues to be remanded in custody after Bow Street Magistrates Court in central London twice refused bail applications.

Argentina has until September 19, when Soleimanpour is next due in court, to produce supporting evidence in its extradition claim over allegations linked with the 1994 bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

Although the British government has insisted it cannot intervene in what it calls a purely judicial process, Home Secretary David Blunkett has to sign an Authority to Proceed for a committal hearing to take place.

Blunkett also makes the ultimate decision for extraditions to be carried out for any successful cases.

... Payvand News - 9/3/03 ... --

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