Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has embarked on a purge of senior Iranian diplomats, with the ambassador to London among his first victims. The sackings will create further alarm in Western capitals concerning Ahmadinejad, who has made a series of hardline pronouncements since becoming president in the summer.
Iranian and Western sources confirmed on Monday that Seyed Muhammad Hossein Adeli, who was posted to London last year, had been sacked. According to Western diplomats, Muhammad Reza Alborzi, Iran's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, was also being recalled.
The purge comes less than a week after the president was widely condemned for calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.
Alborzi was part of an Iranian delegation involved in failed negotiations with Britain, France and Germany in Paris this year over Tehran's nuclear program.
Iran is desperately trying to avoid referral of the nuclear issue to the UN security council and Western diplomats suggested that Ahmadinejad may be conducting a clear-out of Iranian diplomats involved in these negotiations.
The US, EU and Israel suspect that Iran is covertly engaged in pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran denies this.
Western diplomatic sources suggested that the purge is due to the nuclear negotiations. Ahmadinejad had complained that some diplomats had sided too much with European negotiators and failed to represent Iran's national interest.
An Iranian source said there were several reasons for Adeli's sacking, but denied that these included the nuclear issue or the call to wipe out Israel. Adeli, who returned to London late last week from discussions in Tehran, had proved to be a relatively popular figure in London. He was less reserved than his predecessors and prepared to make Iran's case in the media. He is a former governor of the Iranian central bank.
Since Ahmadinejad became president Iran has effectively broken off talks with Britain, France and Germany by resuming uranium conversion, an early step towards nuclear weapons capability.
On Monday it handed over additional documentation to the International Atomic Energy Agency in an attempt to avoid referral to the UN Security Council. Muhammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said there was good cooperation with UN inspectors.