Swiss Shut Down Embassy in Iran
Iran on Sunday prevented a Swiss diplomat from leaving the country and restricted the movements of other Swiss envoys. Switzerland protested sharply and closed its embassy in Tehran.
The Swiss acted after Iranian authorities at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport seized the passport of a diplomat trying to return to Switzerland. The passport was returned hours later, but Iranian authorities prevented the diplomat, Christa Felder, from boarding her flight.
Switzerland had represented U.S. interests in Tehran, so the move severed U.S. diplomatic channels to Iran.
However, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said in Washington: “We do have other channels. It doesn’t close off all contact” with Iran. He did not elaborate.
The controversy began Dec. 23, when Switzerland arrested an Iranian on a French warrant accusing him of helping the killers of Shahpour Bakhtiar, the Shah of Iran’s last prime minister, who was slain Aug. 6 at his home outside Paris.
The Swiss say the Iranian, Zeyal Sarhadi, entered Switzerland in September on a tourist visa and had been staying at Tehran’s embassy in the capital of Bern.
Iran said the arrest violated international agreements on the treatment of diplomats, but the Swiss said the Iranians had never listed Sarhadi as a diplomat or as an embassy employee.
By last Thursday, the top Swiss diplomat in Iran, Charge d’Affaires Walter Hafner, reported that Iranian authorities were restricting the movements of the embassy staff in Tehran.