Iran and Britain to Open 'Interests Sections'

London and Tehran will be opening mutual interests sections in the Swedish and Omani embassies following a severing of relations.

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Gabe Kahn,

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi

Iran and Britain have agreed to open 'interests sections' seven months after Britain closed its embassy in Tehran and ordered Iran to shut its London mission.

Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying that Oman will run the Iranian interests section in Britain, while Sweden will represent British interests in Tehran.

The decision was taken during talks between British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Salehi in Kabul earlier this month. The decision was made on the sidelines of a conference on the future of Afghanistan.

The Foreign Office in London has yet to confirm the report.

Relations between Tehran and London have been at an all-time low since last November, when a rampage of the British embassy in Tehran by Islamist students led to Britain's decision to sever direct diplomatic relations.

Hundreds of pro-regime supporters described as student members of Iran’s Basij militia stormed Britain's embassy and another British diplomatic compound in Tehran on November 29.

They were demonstrating in front of the British embassy to express anger over new Western sanctions leveled at Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.

Iran's government denied it was behind the incident, saying a handful of protesters got out of hand, but Western diplomats dismissed Tehran's claims saying it had intentionally sought a "dramatic piece of political theater."

 Germany, France and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors in solidarity with Britain. Italy, which has traditionally had close ties with Tehran, imposed heavier sanctions after the incident.

“Based on the agreement reached, Oman will be Iran’s interests section in Britain and Sweden will be Britain’s interest section in Iran,” Salehi was quoted as saying.

The agreement is similar to the arrangement that has existed between Tehran and Washington since the US severed ties with the Islamic Republic following the 1979-1981 US embassy hostage crisis.

Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Islamist students and militants took over the American Embassy in Tehran in support of the Iranian Revolution.

Among those students was Iran's current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

At present, the United States maintains an interests section in the Swiss embassy in Tehran, while Iran maintains its own interests section in the embassy of Pakistan in Washington DC.