LONDON (Dispatches) -- Britain’s ambassador to Iran is back in Tehran, he said late on Thursday, some three weeks after he returned to London following his brief arrest by Iranian security forces.
Rob Macaire was called an "undesirable element” by Iran’s judiciary after he attended an illegal protest last month and an Iranian cleric said he should be expelled.
Britain scrambled to call back Macaire to London in mid-January as details of his undiplomatic move surfaced.
It came after Iranian police released a video of the UK ambassador in Tehran shortly before his arrest.
The short video showed Macaire on the campus of the Amirkabir University where a group of people were chanting slogans against the Iranian authorities, allegedly in protest at the accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner.
Iranian police said the video bolstered their case that Macaire had been inciting the rioters against the Islamic Republic.
The British government claimed the ambassador was attending a vigil for the 176 people killed on Flight PS572. Iranian security forces followed Macaire to a barber shop nearby and arrested him before releasing him several hours later.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Britain’s ambassador to Iran had acted in a way that was "completely unprofessional and unacceptable”.
After the incident, hundreds of angry protesters gathered outside the UK embassy to chant "Death to England” and demand the mission’s closure.
The protest attended by Macaire featured the tearing up of the pictures of top Iranian commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani who was assassinated by the U.S. in Iraq.
The assassination triggered a wave of anger among the Iranians who took to the streets in tens of millions to call for revenge and honor the charismatic commander.
The insults against Gen. Soleimani shocked many Iranians and raised question marks about the instantaneous protest which came while the nation was
mourning its national hero and celebrating Iran’s retaliation.
In an Instagram video posted on Thursday, Macaire claimed in Farsi that the visit was "an important trip that was planned some time ago” and had included a meeting with foreign minister Dominic Raab.
Macaire, who has been in the post since 2018, added that he had recently returned to Tehran.
Tensions between Iran and the West have risen since Gen. Soleimani was assassinated on Jan. 3, prompting an Iranian missile attack against a U.S. base in Iraq days later.
Friction between Tehran and Washington has been building since 2018, when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a six-nation nuclear deal in which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear energy program in exchange for the lifting of most sanctions.
Iran announced in January that it would abandon restrictions on enriching uranium but would continue to cooperate with the UN nuclear agency.
Macaire said in the video posting that Britain wanted to use the dispute resolution mechanism in the nuclear deal - which Britain, France and Germany triggered last month - to find a path forward.