Albania expels two Iranian diplomats

Albania reportedly expels two Iranian diplomats in connection with 2016 Albania-Israel soccer match threatened with terrorism.

Tags: Albania Iran
Elad Benari ,

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama

Albania on Wednesday expelled two Iranian diplomats for alleged illegal activities that threaten the country's security, The Associated Press reports.

A spokesman from the Foreign Ministry told the news agency that the two diplomats were expelled for "violating their diplomatic status."

The spokesman said the move followed talks with other countries, including Israel.

Private Top Channel television said the Iranians are suspected of illegal activities related to a World Cup match between Albania and Israel two years ago which was threatened with an alleged terrorist attack.

Albanian officials would not confirm that report, however.

About 20 people were arrested in Albania and Kosovo following the game, which was moved to Elbasan, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the Albanian capital of Tirana, and took place under a heavy police presence due to the security threat.

In May, Kosovo jailed eight Albanian Muslim extremists for up to 10 years in connection with the plot against the soccer game.

Two members of the group who pleaded guilty at the beginning of the trial in mid-2017 were sentenced to 18-month prison term each.

While Wednesday’s report did not name the Iranian officials who were expelled, US National Security John Bolton, who welcomed Albania’s move, said one of the two expelled officials was the Iranian ambassador to Albania.

“Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania just expelled the Iranian ambassador, signaling to Iran’s leaders that their support for terrorism will not be tolerated. We stand with PM Rama and the Albanian people as they stand up to Iran’s reckless behavior in Europe and across the globe,” he tweeted.