Iran ambassador ordered to leave Kuwait over spy case

Iran ambassador ordered to leave Kuwait over spy case
# 20 July 2017 18:34 (UTC +04:00)

Kuwait ordered the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador and 14 other diplomats for alleged links to a "spy and terror" cell, Iranian and Kuwaiti media reported on Thursday, APA reports quoting Reuters.

Kuwait also instructed Iran's cultural and military missions to be shut down following a court case which increased tensions between the two countries.

Diplomats said it was an unusual move for Kuwait, which usually avoids overt conflict. Iran's news agency ISNA said Kuwait is allowing only four of 19 embassy staff to remain in the country.

"Under the pressure of Saudi interventionist policies, and the baseless accusation of Iranian interference ... (Kuwait said) Alireza Enayati, the Iranian ambassador, must leave," ISNA said.

There was some confusion about the deadline given to the diplomats to the leave the country, with some sources saying 45 days while others reporting 48 days.

Acting Kuwaiti information, minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Mubarak al-Sabah said in a statement: "Kuwait decided to take action in accordance with diplomatic norms and in abidance with the Vienna conventions with regards to its relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Last year Kuwait convicted 23 men - one Iranian and the rest Kuwaiti - of spying for Iran and Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah after a cache of guns and explosives were discovered in a raid of the so-called "Abdali cell" in 2015, which escalated sectarian tensions.

One person was sentenced to death while the rest were given prison sentences. Last month, Kuwait's highest court overturned the death sentence, reduced some of the other prison terms while increasing others.

Iran has denied any involvement in the case.

Iran responded to the expulsion order by filing a complaint to the Kuwaiti charge d'affaires, ISNA said.

Kuwait, which has a large Shi'ite Muslim minority, sits in a difficult geographical position close to two major regional powers and arch foes -- mainly Shi'ite Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.

Apart from the diplomatic row with Iran, Kuwait has also been trying to mediate in the crisis involving Qatar.

In a separate dispute, some other Gulf states have imposed sanctions on Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and having links to Tehran.

($1 = 0.3026 Kuwaiti dinars)