Iran’s Supreme Leader warns Western powers

TEHRAN: Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Western leaders against “meddling” today as Britain announced that all but one of its embassy staff detained in Tehran have now been freed.

Khameini admitted there are “differences” among Iranians following last month’s disputed presidential election but he told the West it would be met with a “firm fist” if it tried to exploit the unrest sparked by hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election.

“The Iranian nation warns the leaders of those countries trying to take advantage of the situation, beware! The Iranian nation will react,” Khamenei said in a televised speech in Tehran.

“The leaders of arrogant countries, the nosy meddlers in the affairs of the Islamic republic, must know that no matter if the Iranian people have their own differences, when you enemies get involved, the people... will become a firm fist against you.” Iranian leaders have accused the West, particularly Britain and the United States, of seeking to exploit the protests over the June 12 election to destabilise the Islamic regime.

It expelled two British diplomats last month, prompting a tit-for-tat response from London.

It also detained nine locally recruited British embassy staff, accusing them of instigating the massive demonstrations in Tehran. Today, the British Foreign Office announced that the eighth of the nine staff was released last evening, leaving just one in custody.

“We are able to confirm that one of our staff remains in detention,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

“It remains our top priority to get all of our embassy staff released as soon as possible.” Lawyer Abolsamad Khorramshahi said on Sunday he was seeking permission to see the embassy employee still in custody, political analyst Hossein Rassam, after being told by his family of the accusations against him.

The detention of the Iranians working for the British embassy, who do not enjoy diplomatic immunity, prompted European Union governments to call in Iranian ambassadors across the 27-nation bloc on Friday.

Yesterday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the international community was united in opposition to the “intimidation” from Tehran. And at a summit in the French town of Evian today, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned that the European Union was ready to take joint action.