Iran's foreign minister accused Britain on Sunday of seeking to sabotage the disputed presidential election that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power and ordered the BBC’s Tehran correspondent to leave within 24 hours, semi-official media reported Sunday.
"Great Britain has plotted against the presidential election for more than two years," Manouchehr Mottaki told foreign diplomats in Tehran in comments translated into English by state-run Press TV.
Retaliation on BBC
Shortly after his comments, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported that Iran had decided to expel the BBC's correspondent.
"Jon Leyne will have to leave Iran within the course of the next 24 hours under the charges of dispatching fabricated news and reports, ignoring neutrality in news, supporting rioters and trampling the Iranian nation's rights," Fars said, without giving a source.
Al Arabiya’s Tehran bureau was also shut indefinitely after Iranina authorities closed it for a week last Sunday.
"We witnessed an influx of people (from Britain) before the election. Elements linked to the British secret service were flying in droves," Mottaki charged.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also on Friday accused "the evil British government" of meddling in the June 12 election, which the opposition has protested was rigged.
Britain dismissed the charges as "unacceptable" and summoned the Iranian ambassador in protest. Tehran had summoned the British ambassador on Tuesday to protest London's comments on post-election unrest.
Mottaki charged that Britain "did not want anyone to go to the polls."
"That was the line of the British media," he said. Officials jammed the BBC’s Persian signal on the Saturday that results were announced.
Iran has been rocked by a week of protests and bloody clashes between supporters of Ahmadinejad's main challenger in the election, former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, and security forces that have left at least 21 people dead.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has insisted that he would not allow Khamenei to turn Tehran protests into a "battle" between Britain and Iran.
Iran's state news agency IRNA said that members of the main exiled opposition group, People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI), with British links had been arrested over the post-election violence.
"Those arrested have confessed that after receiving training in Iraq, they entered Iran and were commanded and supported by the hypocrites in Britain," IRNA said.
Britain, a key U.S. ally which has strained ties with Tehran, has been at the forefront of Western criticism of Iran's handling of the election.
Sharper U.S. statement
In his sharpest challenge yet to the top leader on a day of bloodshed and violence, U.S. President Barack Obama called on Iran's government Saturday to stop "violent and unjust" action against its own people.
Obama issued a written statement stiffening his position on the turmoil, after a week seeking to find the right tone to recognize unprecedented protests in Iran while avoiding being seen to meddle in Iranian affairs.
"We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people," Obama said, as protestors clashed in defiance of an order from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for an end to protests.
"The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost," Obama said, choosing to focus on the reaction to the protests rather than the issue at the center of the controversy.
"The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights," he added.
The president also stressed that if Iran's leadership wants the respect of the international community "it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.