PARIS — France broke relations with Iran today after three weeks of diplomatic wrangling over France's demands to question an Iranian Embassy employee, and Iran said the French consul in Tehran will be tried as a spy.
In another response to France's action, two anonymous telephone callers to Western news agencies in Beirut said a pro-Iranian Shia Muslim group would kill two kidnaped French diplomats in retaliation.
"It has been decided to carry out immediately the death sentence against Marcel Carton and Marcel Fontaine," the callers said. They claimed to be speaking for the underground group Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for kidnaping the two men in 1985.
Iranian television quoted an unidentified Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Iran was breaking relations with France. It did not mention that France had done the same thing hours earlier.
The television, monitored in Cyprus, quoted the spokesman as saying French Consul Paul Torri must appear before a revolutionary court to face accusations of espionage and drug smuggling.
No Deadline Given
The French Foreign Ministry did not announce a deadline for Iran's five diplomats and about 35 other embassy employees to leave the country. France has about 15 nationals at its embassy in Tehran, including eight diplomats.
Relations between France and Iran long have been strained over France's supply of arms to Iraq, Iran's enemy in the 7-year-old Persian Gulf war.
Premier Jacques Chirac has sought to improve relations with Tehran because it is believed to have influence over the Shia Muslims, who hold six Frenchmen hostage in Lebanon.
French police had surrounded the Iranian Embassy and checked the identities of Iranians entering and leaving the building since June 30 in an effort to force Iran to turn over embassy translator Wahid Gordjih.
Tied to Suspect
French police claim that Gordjih has ties to at least one person arrested in connection with five bombings that killed 11 people and wounded more than 150 in Paris last September. They say that Gordjih, who does not have diplomatic immunity, is the No. 2 man in the embassy and may have links to the Iranian secret service.
On Thursday, Iran said it was reducing its embassy staff in Paris to a minimum and would cut diplomatic ties in 72 hours if France did not remove the police cordon.
The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement today that the conditions in Iran's ultimatum were "patently unacceptable." Late Thursday, France reinforced the police contingent around the embassy.
"For several days diplomats and members of the French Embassy personnel posted in Tehran have been arbitrarily stopped from leaving that country to return to France," the Foreign Ministry statement said.
"France takes notice of this situation and considers that, the process of breaking diplomatic relations being already under way, the consequences must be drawn," it said.