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Five out of nine Iranian staff of British embassy released: TV

FIVE out of the nine detained Iranian staff at the British embassy in Tehran have been released, Iran's English-language satellite channel Press TV reported this morning.

"Five out of the nine local staff at the British embassy in the Iranian capital of Tehran have been released," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi was quoted as saying.

Qashqavi said that British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki by phone yesterday evening and assured him that Britain does not intend to interfere in Iran's internal affairs.

The spokesman also said Iran is not going to close any embassy which is not on the Iranian government's agenda, according to Press TV's report.

Iranian media reported yesterday that eight local staff at the British embassy had been detained for their "considerable role" in post-election riots, but today's reports said the number should be nine.

Speaking on the sidelines of a European security meeting in Greece yesterday, Miliband called the arrests "harassment" and demanded their immediate release.

Relations between Britain and Iran are strained after Tehran accused Britain of stoking unrest, which London denies.

Iran has repeatedly accused foreign powers -- especially Britain and the United States -- of stoking the unrest that swept the country after June 12 election, which handed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a decisive victory.

Last week, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned the country may downgrade its ties with Britain after the two governments expelled each other's diplomats in a tit-for-tat move.

Iran has also expelled a BBC's correspondent in Tehran and arrested a British-Greek journalist, as well as a number of other British passport-holders it said were involved in riot.


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