Iran summons Kuwaiti charge d'affaires over "spying" row

Kuwait shuts Iran cultural mission, expels diplomats: KUNA
Kuwait to shut down Iran's cultural and military mission, decrease number of diplomats

22 July, 2017

Kuwait has made a decision to shut down Iran's cultural attaché office in the country and reduce the number of Iranian diplomats.

The four states accuse Qatar of having close relations with Iran and supporting extremism, charges Qatar denies.

A court sentenced last month members of a cell allegedly linked to Tehran and Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

"The government of the state of Kuwait chose to take actions in accordance with diplomatic norms and in abidance with the Vienna conventions with regards to its relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran", acting Information Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Mubarak al-Sabah said in a separate statement.

A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP around 15 Iranian diplomats were expelled.

Reuters also quoted a Kuwaiti government official as saying on Thursday that Kuwait City has taken "actions" regarding its diplomatic relationship with Iran following the court ruling.

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Iran rejected the accusations as baseless and communicated its strong objection to Kuwait's chargé d'affaires. "It was reiterated that Iran reserves the right to a reciprocal measure", Ghasemi added.

Iran's foreign ministry has summoned Kuwait's charge d'affaires after the Gulf state closed the Iranian cultural, military and trade offices and ordered the number of Iranian diplomats there to be cut amid a spying row, the semi-official news agency Fars reported on Thursday. Kuwait has not imposed sanctions on Qatar and has positioned itself as a neutral party in the crisis.

In August 2015, Kuwait said it had busted the 26-member cell and seized arms, ammunition and explosives from them.

Khatami also warned Iran's neighboring states against cordial relations with the U.S. and emphasized that Washington would treat them in the same way it did with the executed Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. The only Iranian member of the cell was sentenced to death in absentia by the lower court early previous year.

In a statement earlier this week, the ministry said 14 convicts had fled to Iran in a speedboat. The cell was convicted by a lower court early past year but acquitted on appeal months later and set free.

They received sentences ranging from a few years in prison to, in one case, the death penalty, though the latter sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment. Unlike most of its fellow GCC partners, Kuwait has maintained good relations with Iran in recent years.

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