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Another Iranian diplomat seeks asylum in Norway
OSLO (Reuters) - A diplomat from the Iranian embassy in Belgium said on Tuesday he would seek asylum in Norway, joining a small movement of Iranian foreign service officials who have left their posts in protest over alleged human rights and electoral abuses in Iran.
Farzad Farhangian, 47, called for the overthrow of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a news conference, where he was accompanied by a former Iranian consul in Norway who defected in January.
"Given the recent event in Iran, yes, I want this government overthrown," said Farhangian, who said he was a deputy consul in Brussels with responsibility for media affairs.
He added that he was putting his weight behind a group called "Green Embassy" composed of a handful of exiled Iranian diplomats, including Mohammad Reza Heydari, the former consular official in Norway who now lives in Oslo.
Phone calls to the Iranian embassies in Oslo and Belgium were not answered.
Farhangian said he left his job in Brussels last week after a year of conflict with the ambassador there over alleged fraud in Iran's 2009 presidential election and subsequent crackdown on protesters inside Iran.
When he left, he said, a "delegation" of officials from Iran was on its way to Brussels to deal with his case. He said his family members would also be seeking asylum in Norway.
"My life and the life of my family is in danger," he said.
He said he had no prior connection to Norway but came to be with Heydari. He said he was also "old friends" with Hossein Alizadeh, who resigned last week from the Iranian embassy in Finland to join the political opposition.
Farhangian's Norwegian attorney, Arild Humler, said the former diplomat from Belgium would probably apply for asylum later on Tuesday.
Farhangian said Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reacted to the series of diplomatic defections with pressure on remaining staff.
"There have been meetings and there have been directives and warnings, because the Iranian government is aware of the danger," he said.
Ahmadinejad has angered hardliners recently by appointing four close allies to new foreign policy posts, sidelining the Foreign Ministry and snubbing calls to sack his controversial chief of staff whom he made Middle East envoy.
"This is evidence of a continued, deeper issue and divide in the Iranian establishment," Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Reuters of the defections.
Heydari said Green Embassy was supported by businessman Amir Hossein Jahanchahi, the London- and Paris-based founder of the dissident organization Green Wave.
Heydari said six former diplomatic employees were enrolled in Green Embassy. He said they included one in the United States, one in Japan and one in Denmark in addition to Farhangian, Alizadeh and Heydari himself.
Gala Riani at IHS Global Insight said the resignations were all the more damaging because they took place outside Iran.
"The regime is becoming so openly repressive that individuals who have spent years and decades in its service are abandoning ship."
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