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Iranian lawmakers vote to expel British ambassador

November 27, 2011 |  5:46 pm

REPORTING FROM TEHRAN AND BEIRUT -- Iran's parliament on Sunday voted overwhelmingly to downgrade diplomatic and economic relations with Britain, according to Iranian media reports.

The move comes after Britain severed financial ties with Iranian banks on Tuesday, accusing them of facilitating the country's nuclear program. If approved by Iran's Guardian Council, it could lead to the expulsion of British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott, leaving the diplomatic mission to be run by a junior-level charge d'affaires.

Britain's Foreign Office  called the move "regrettable," saying it "will do nothing to help the regime address their growing isolation or international concerns about their nuclear program and human rights record."

"If the Iranian government acts on this, we will respond robustly in consultation with our international partners," it said in a statement.

A total of 179 of parliament's 290 members supported the bill, with four voting against and 11 abstaining, according to Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency.

The speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, hailed the vote, calling it a "well-appraised and revolutionary move," according to the Fars report.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also defended the vote, saying his country was simply responding to Britain's action.

"We adjust our conduct with their own behaviors," he was quoted as saying by the Alef news site. "They don't want to make transactions with us, well, we don't want transactions either."

Parliament has also asked to be informed about other countries that take similar steps against Iran, according to news reports.

British Chancellor George Osborne announced the financial sanctions after the International Atomic Energy Agency  released a strongly worded report saying Iran may be secretly working to develop a nuclear weapon.

Iran says its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes.

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-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

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