Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama orders Iranian diplomats and embassy staff to leave within 24 hours following an investigation into a cyberattack in July.

There was no immediate reaction from the Iranian embassy in Tirana.
There was no immediate reaction from the Iranian embassy in Tirana. (AP Archive)

Albania has broken diplomatic ties with Iran, Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a statement, as the leader accused Iran of launching a massive cyberattack against the country this summer. 

"The Council of Ministers has decided on the severance of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran with immediate effect," said Rama on Wednesday.

Rama accused Iran of directing a cyberattack against Albanian institutions on July 15 in a bid to "paralyse public services and hack data and electronic communications from the government systems".

"The said attack failed its purpose. Damages may be considered minimal compared to the goals of the aggressor. All systems came back fully operational and there was no irreversible wiping of data," Rama added.

The prime minister went on to say that Iranian diplomats and support staff had 24 hours to leave the country following the announcement.

Reacting to Albania's move, Iran called it “ill-considered” and “short-sighted”, denying involvement in the July cyberattack targeting the European country.

Iran's response

In a statement, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani dismissed the allegations as “baseless,” saying Tehran has “principled positions” in the area of cyberspace, and the country has itself been a “target” of cyberattacks.

He went on to attribute the allegations levelled by the Albanian authorities against Iran to “third parties”, in an oblique reference to the US and Israel.

Albania and Iran have been bitter foes for years, stemming from Tirana's hosting of Iranian opposition group the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK) on its soil. 

Albania agreed in 2013 to take in some 3,000 members of the group at the request of Washington and the United Nations. 

The MEK backed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1979 revolution that ousted the shah but rapidly fell out with the new political elite and embarked on a campaign to overthrow the regime. 

READ MORE: Cyberattack shuts down Albania's online public services

Source: AFP