TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran is replacing 40 of its ambassadors, including some who voiced support for "rioters" during the unrest that erupted after June's disputed election, the semi-official Fars news agency has reported.
Commenting on the report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said Iran had more than 130 diplomatic missions abroad and that replacing about 45 envoys each year was normal, state broadcaster IRIB said on its website.
He said such replacements usually happened during the summer. IRIB's report made no mention of any of the ambassadors allegedly backing postelection protesters.
Citing informed sources, Fars said late on September 1 that the envoys were given notification that their diplomatic postings had been terminated. It did not give details on which ambassadors were affected.
"Some of these people officially took positions during the recent riots in Iran in support of rioters," Fars said. "It is supposed that the new ambassadors will be selected from committed experts loyal to the basis of the [1979 Islamic] Revolution," it said.
Iran announced a similar overhaul of its diplomatic corps after Ahmadinejad won his first presidential term in 2005, saying it said it was ending the assignments of 40 ambassadors, and that others would retire.
This year's election and its turbulent aftermath plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the revolution three decades ago and exposed deepening establishment divisions.
Iranian officials have denounced some of the people who took part in huge opposition protests in the days after the June 12 election as "rioters," accusing them of attacking government buildings and destroying public property.
The moderate opposition, which says the vote was rigged to secure the reelection of hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, has blamed the authorities for the bloodshed, in which at least 26 people died.
Officials reject charges of vote fraud, describing the election as Iran's "healthiest" since the revolution.