Iran parliament committee votes to sever UK ties

Tehran–A committee in Iran’s Parliament voted Sunday to cut diplomatic relations with Britain, a day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for “cooperation” with major powers.

The decision by Parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, reported by the semi-official Fars news agency, follows criticism by Britain’s ambassador to Tehran of Iran’s human-rights record.

“After voting by the members of the committee, it was decided to have diplomatic relations completely severed with Britain,” Fars quoted lawmaker Mohammad Karami-rad as saying.

If the motion is backed by the full parliament it would put pressure on the government to downgrade relations with Britain at a time when a new foreign minister has called for “positive interaction” with the European Union.

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has been a rival of Ahmadinejad’s since losing to him at the 2005 presidential election and the replacement of the foreign minister has fuelled tensions between the two men.

British Ambassador Simon Gass was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry Monday after criticizing Iran’s human-rights record in an article on the embassy’s website. Gass dismissed criticisms from lawmakers. “MPs claim to be offended by my Human Rights Day statement. But Iranian leaders regularly abuse other countries including the UK,” he said in a message posted on Twitter.

Foreign policy–which is decided by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council in line with the views of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei–has become a battleground in a power struggle between Ahmadinejad and a parliament concerned that the president is amassing too much power.

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