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Ireland to close embassies in Vatican City and Iran

DUBLIN (BNO NEWS) -- The Irish government on Friday announced it will close its embassies in Vatican City and the Iranian capital of Tehran to meet its cost-cutting targets under the European Union (EU)-International Monetary Fund (IMF) program.

A statement issued by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFA) said it had been forced to implement cuts across a wide range of public services. "No area of Government expenditure can be immune from the need to implement savings," the department said.

DFA said it conducted a review of overseas missions which gave particular attention to the economic return from bilateral missions. It recognized the Embassy to the Holy See as one of Ireland's oldest missions, but noted that it yields no economic return.

"The Government believes that Ireland’s interests with the Holy See can be sufficiently represented by a non-resident Ambassador," the statement said. "The Government will be seeking the agreement of the Holy See to the appointment of a senior diplomat to this position."

Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. said it had taken note of Ireland's decision. "Of course, any State which has diplomatic relations with the Holy See is free to decide, according to its possibilities and its interests, whether to have an ambassador to the Holy See resident in Rome, or resident in another country," he said. "What is important are diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the States, and these are not at issue with regard to Ireland."

In regards to the Irish Embassy in Tehran, DFA said the trade volumes with Iran have fallen short of expectations. "In light of the current pressures on public finances, the Government has decided to close this mission and to seek Iran's agreement to a non-resident accreditation," DFA explained.

In addition to the closure of the two embassies, the Irish government also decided to close its Representative Office in Timor Leste (East Timor). It had been opened in 2000, prior to independence in 2002, to administer Ireland's aid program.

"The Office is headed by a Chargé d'Affaires with the Ambassador resident in Singapore. Timor Leste has made substantial progress and, while the aid program in that country will continue, it is no longer necessary to maintain a resident office in Dili," DFA said. "Our Ambassador in Singapore will continue to be accredited to Timor Leste."

The Irish government said it would continue to review Irish overseas missions but did not say whether it is seeking to close more embassies. "[The Government] will consider reshaping and expanding the network in light of developments and opportunities, as economic circumstances allow," DFA said.

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