January 14, 2020 / 12:34 PM / 7 days ago

Iran's judiciary brands UK ambassador 'undesirable' - state media

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran’s judiciary said on Tuesday that Britain’s ambassador to Tehran was an “undesirable element”, state media reported, after Iranian officials accused him of attending an illegal protest despite his denials.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry, which had summoned him to complain over the incident, would be responsible for announcing any move to expel Rob Macaire, who has been in the post since 2018.

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said London had received no formal notification that Macaire would be expelled, adding that any such action would be regrettable.

“Based on international regulations, the British ambassador in Iran is an undesirable element,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told reporters, when asked about the British envoy. His remarks were carried on state television.

In remarks carried by Eslahat news website, prominent hardline 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 a general killed in a U.S. drone strike would “chop him to small pieces”.

Alamolhoda is the leader of Friday prayers in the eastern Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Mashhad.

Macaire was briefly detained on Saturday, which Iranian officials said was because he attended an illegal demonstration that took place amid public anger over Iran’s belated admission that its military shot down a passenger plane.

The ambassador said he had attended a vigil for victims of the crash. London said his detention was a violation of diplomatic conventions.

Additional reporting by Kate Holton in London; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Edmund Blair and Jon Boyle

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