Ahmad Maleki, the head of Iran's consular office in Milan, has resigned his post to protest the Iranian government's "barbaric actions against the Iranian nation," RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.
Maleki told RFE/RL in an exclusive interview on February 20 that he had joined the opposition Green Movement. He became the fourth Iranian diplomat in the past year to resign over disagreements with how Tehran has handled the Green Movement and its supporters.
In January 2010, Mohammad Reza Heidari, a counselor in the Iranian Embassy in Norway, was the first diplomat to resign. He had condemned the deaths of protesters on the Shi'ite Islamic holiday of Ashura and then later established the "Green Embassy Campaign" in Oslo with the goal of encouraging other Iranian diplomats to support the opposition.
Hossein Alizadeh of the Iranian Embassy in Finland then resigned in August 2010 to show his disagreement with the 2009 presidential election results. That same month, Faraz Farhangian, a diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Brussels, left his post and moved to Norway.
Maleki had worked as a diplomat for 25 years and had previous posts in Portugal and Kenya.
He told RFE/RL there are "many others in the [Iranian Foreign Ministry] who are unhappy with the government."
Maleki said he was initially upset by the conduct of the 2009 presidential election -- which the opposition says was rigged -- and by the regime’s actions against the protesters afterward, but he said that recent harsh measures against the Green Movement finally persuaded him to "join hands with the nation.”
Maleki said his resignation and that of the other Iranian diplomats has "a positive effect as the first step against suppression." He expressed optimism for the opposition, saying: "following recent incidents in Iran and people [leaving the Foreign Ministry], the upcoming events will take us toward victory."
The Green Embassy Campaign announced in a statement on February 20 that Maleki and Heidari, the campaign's spokesman, will appear at a press conference in Paris today.