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EU Will Counter Iranian Harassment Of Diplomats

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband
CORFU, Greece (Reuters) -- European Union foreign ministers have agreed that the bloc would meet any Iranian intimidation of European diplomatic staff in Tehran with a "strong and collective response."

Foreign Minister Jan Kohout of the Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU presidency, said on June 28 that it also urged Iran to immediately release all Iranian local employees of Britain's Tehran embassy and a Greek journalist detained by Iranian authorities.

"There was also a commitment that (Iranian) harassment and intimidation of diplomatic staff of European countries will be met with a strong and collective response," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said after a ministers' meeting.

They reviewed EU strategy toward Iran where major protests erupted over alleged vote rigging in its June 12 presidential election.

The unrest, in which at least 20 protesters have been killed during crackdowns by Iranian police and religious militia, has been blamed by hardline Iranian leaders on foreign powers, not popular outrage.

Iran detained several local British embassy staff, local media said on June 28, escalating a spat with Britain which has been denounced as "the most treacherous" of Iran's adversaries by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"The EU calls on Iran and its authorities to stop hostilities against EU member states as well as (the) EU's partner countries and their citizens and to release an EU journalist still in custody," said Kohout.

"The EU strongly denounces arbitrary arrests and repression against members of the civil society," he said.

Miliband said four of a reported nine Iranian staff at Britain's Tehran embassy who were detained had since freed and Britain was waiting word on the release of the rest.

Kohout said the EU fully respected Iran's sovereignty but was alarmed about the continued internal political crisis.