LONDON, JUNE 4 -- Britain today ordered the Iranian consulate in Manchester closed, and told the five diplomats there to leave the country within one week.
Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe described the action as a "measured response" to Tehran's refusal to explain or apologize for the 24-hour abduction and beating last week by Revolutionary Guards of Britain's number two diplomat in Tehran.
"We've waited a week," Howe said of the decision to close the consulate. "We could have done nothing less."
Britain also has demanded that the Iranian government withdraw a series of still-unspecified charges against the diplomat, 36-year-old Edward Chaplin.
The expulsion order does not affect Iran's embassy in London, which has a diplomatic staff of 19. Although the Manchester consulate has an authorized complement of four accredited diplomats, officials here said that a pending staff change had raised the number temporarily to five, all of whom must leave.
After being informed of the British measures here this morning, Iranian charge d'affaires Akhunzadeh Basti described them as "very, very serious," and said he believed that Iran would respond with some sort of retaliation "in a few days."
A Foreign Office spokesman said that any retaliation on Iran's part "would give rise to further serious consequences for British-Iranian relations."
Although substantial trade is conducted between the two countries, diplomatic relations have been cool since 1980. Britain closed its embassy in Tehran then after deciding the Iranian government could not provide proper security for it. British affairs are conducted by an interests section, also with a diplomatic staff of 19, under the Swedish flag.
Among the consular officials who must leave the country by midnight next Thursday is Ahmed Gassemi, who was arrested in Manchester and charged with shoplifting and assault on a police officer the day before Chaplin's May 28 abduction.