Iran’s head of diplomacy made the return of normalized relations with Sweden conditional on the adoption of “concrete measures” on Friday, July 21. Tehran has recalled its ambassador in Stockholm following desecration of a copy of the Koran by an Iraqi refugee on Swedish territory.

Iran announced late Friday that it will not allow a new Swedish ambassador into the country amid a row over Stockholm permitting protests in which the Koran was desecrated.

“The Swedish ambassador’s term in Tehran has ended and, according to the president’s order, until the Swedish government takes a serious action over the desecration of the Holy Koran, we will not accept the new Swedish ambassador,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told state television.

“The Iranian ambassador will not be sent to Sweden,” he added.

His announcement came after an evening protest in the capital Tehran that saw hundreds of demonstrators gather outside the Swedish embassy.

The protest became a sit-in, with the crowd throwing eggs and tomatoes at the building and vowing to stay put until the Swedish ambassador is expelled from Iran, before later dispersing.

Earlier, protesters gathered after Friday prayers, waving Iranian flags and carrying copies of Islam’s holy book.

“Down with the United States, Britain, Israel and Sweden,” protesters chanted, as some in Tehran burned the Swedish flag.

Similar demonstrations were held in other major Iranian cities including Tabriz in the northwest, Mashhad in the northeast and Isfahan in the centre of the country.

The rallies came amid heightened tensions between Stockholm and Muslim countries over a Sweden-based Iraqi refugee who last month burnt pages of the Koran outside Stockholm’s main mosque.

In the latest such incident on Thursday, the refugee, Salwan Momika, stepped on the Koran but did not burn it. His act triggered renewed condemnation across the Muslim world.

Iran had already summoned the Swedish ambassador on Thursday to protest against Stockholm allowing Momika’s actions on free speech grounds.

Amir-Abdollahian spoke to his Swedish counterpart Tobias Billstrom by phone on Friday.

“The person who committed this unforgivable insult must be arrested, tried, and held accountable for his actions,” a foreign ministry statement quoted him as saying.

Malo Pinatel, with AFP