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Page last updated at 17:41 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 18:41 UK

Brown demands embassy staff freed

Iranian hardline students burn US and British flags during a protest outside the British embassy in Tehran on 23 June, 2009
Tehran has blamed the US and UK for post-election unrest

The UK prime minister has called for the release of four remaining British embassy staff detained in Tehran.

Gordon Brown said it was "unacceptable" and "unjustifiable" that the local employees had been held.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration found the "harassment" of the British embassy staff in Iran "deplorable".

Five out of nine local staff, held over an alleged role in election protests, have been freed, Iranian officials say.

Iran's media said the staff were held over their role in protests against the disputed presidential election, allegations the UK foreign secretary has dismissed as "baseless".

Britain has protested strongly over the arrests.

Meanwhile, Iran's Guardian Council, its top legislative body, has confirmed incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory in the election.

News of the decision was announced by state TV.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown told a news conference in London Iran's behaviour was "unacceptable, unjustified and without foundation".

'Strong response'

Speaking alongside President of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, Mr Brown also thanked the EU for "its support and solidarity".

On Sunday, the European Union warned Iran that "harassment or intimidation" of embassy staff would be met with a "strong and collective" response.


IRAN UNREST
12 June Presidential election saw incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected with 63% of vote
Main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi called for result to be annulled for electoral fraud
Street protests saw at least 17 people killed and foreign media restricted

"Out of nine people, five of them have been released and the rest are being interrogated," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said at a news conference, state television Press TV reported.

Iran's intelligence minister Gholam-Hoseyn Mohseni-Ezhei on Sunday said "the British embassy played a crucial role in the recent unrest both through its local staff and via media", Iran's Irna news agency reported.

"We have photos and videos of certain local employees of the British embassy, who collected news about the protests.

"The embassy sent staff among the rioters to direct them in order to escalate the riots so that the rioters could file fabricated reports about the [rallies] to the world from various locations," the Iranian minister added.

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Video appearing to show arrests following protests in Tehran on Sunday

The UK Foreign Office has not said what the four staff still in custody do at the embassy, but the BBC understands that one of them has the job of reviewing local news sources and keeping abreast of political developments, our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, who is in Tehran, says.

He says that none of the nine who were detained has dual Iranian-British nationality.

Despite the releases, the fact that some employees are still being held means the issue remains a serious problem for the UK, our editor adds.

Iran has repeatedly accused foreign powers - especially Britain and the US - of meddling after the 12 June election.

The poll was won by a landslide by incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but his opponents said the victory was achieved by massive fraud. Some 17 people are thought to have died in subsequent street protests.

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

However, Mr Ghashghavi said on Monday "there is no plan at the moment to close any embassy or downgrade ties with them".



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