Iranian protesters have burned an effigy of the UK’s ambassador in Tehran as the country’s judiciary called the diplomat an “undesirable element”.
Rob Macaire is at the centre of tensions between London and Tehran after he was arrested by police in the Iranian capital on Saturday. He was released about an hour later.
He was detained after attending a vigil for those who were killed in the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane by Iranian forces.
The diplomat said he left when chanting began, but Iran ordered him to explain his “illegal and inappropriate” presence at demonstrations.
On Tuesday, in remarks broadcast on state TV, Iran’s judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told reporters: “Based on international regulations, the British ambassador in Iran is an undesirable element.”
Prominent hardline Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda was also quoted as saying the expulsion of Mr Macaire would be “the best thing that can happen to him”.
He claimed supporters of Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian commander killed by a US drone strike earlier this month, would otherwise “chop him to small pieces”.
Meanwhile, a cardboard cutout of Mr Macaire was burned alongside UK and US flags at the University of Tehran by members of the Basij, a militia loyal to the Iranian regime.
The protest took place during a memorial for passengers of the Ukrainian plane.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government had received “no formal indication” that Mr Macaire will be expelled from Iran.
He told the House of Commons: “It would be deeply regrettable if that were the case.”
“We need to keep the diplomatic channels open, and futile gestures like that are not going to resolve the problems that the regime in Tehran face.”
Iran’s ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, was summoned to the Foreign Office on Monday in order to hear the government’s “strong objections” to Mr Macaire’s arrest.
But, following the meeting, Iran’s foreign ministry issued a belligerent statement.
“Any new mistake of Britain will be severely confronted by Iran, and London will be responsible for that,” the ministry said, according to Iranian state TV.
“The presence of the UK envoy is against diplomatic norms… Threatening Iran with fresh sanctions over that will cause tension between Tehran and London.”