Britain on Wednesday expelled all Iranian diplomats and ordered the closure of its embassy in London in retaliation against the storming of the British mission in Tehran on Tuesday. Simultaneously, the British embassy in Tehran was shut down and all staff were evacuated.

Foreign Secretary William Hague described British-Iranian relations as at their “lowest level''. Alleging that the attack had “some degree of regime consent”, he said: “If any country makes it impossible for us to operate on their soil they cannot expect to have a functioning embassy here.”

The attack by a crowd which broke into the embassy and ransacked it was provoked by Britain imposing further sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

Earlier, Iran's Parliament downgraded diplomatic ties with Britain in protest.

Mr. Hague said Britain had demanded the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London, and its staff must leave the U.K. within 48 hours. “The Iranian charge [d'affaires] in London is being informed now that we require the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London and that all Iranian diplomatic staff must leave the United Kingdom within the next 48 hours,'' he said in Parliament.

Britain was not severing relations with Iran entirely, he said, and he would raise the issue of Iran's nuclear programme at a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council.

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