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Posted at 09:46 AM ET, 12/01/2011

European diplomats visit ransacked British Embassy in Tehran

TEHRAN — A group of European ambassadors, accompanied by the heads of missions of Russia, Canada and Australia, visited the ransacked British residential compound and embassy grounds here on Thursday, as the European Union met in Brussels to discuss fresh sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
A shattered window of an office of the British Embassy in Tehran is seen, after an attack by Iranian hard-liners. (Mehdi Marizad/AP)

At the embassy compound, the diplomats visited the century-old residence of the British ambassador, which is located next to the chancery. The building was ravaged Tuesday by a mob of militant young people loyal to Iran's ruling clerics. The mob stormed into both diplomatic complexes during demonstrations to protest new British sanctions against Tehran. Iranian police did not stop them.

Diplomats said they were shocked by what they described as a "rampage." Speaking by telephone from inside the compounds, the envoys described how items had been thrown out of residential buildings, windows broken and doors forced open.

Paintings had been cut up, computers smashed to pieces and the attackers had spray-painted slogans on the walls saying "Down with England" and "Hezbollahis are victorious."

"This is awful," said one diplomat, who asked not to be named. "The inside of the building has been completely demolished."

In response to the incursion, Britain announced Wednesday that it would shutter the embassy and withdraw its diplomats from Iran. Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands withdrew their ambassadors for "consultations."

Iranian police, on the orders of the Foreign Ministry, prevented foreign journalists from accompanying the diplomats on Thursday, saying that media representatives were “not allowed" to enter the diplomatic compounds.

The semiofficial Fars News Agency called the embassy tour a "propaganda visit, organized by the English regime."

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By  |  09:46 AM ET, 12/01/2011

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