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Britain's New Iran Envoy Visits Tehran

Britain's new envoy to Tehran visits Iran, the first British diplomat to do so since 2011.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/4/2013, 4:13 AM

Protester kicks a door in the British embassy compound in Tehran
Protester kicks a door in the British embassy compound in Tehran
Reuters

Britain's new envoy to Tehran visited Iran on Tuesday, becoming the first British diplomat to travel to the country since ties were severed in 2011, the Foreign Office in London said, according to AFP.

Ajay Sharma, who is making his first trip in his new role as non-resident charge d'affaires, held "detailed and constructive" talks with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Habibollah-Zadeh and other officials.

"I had a good first visit back to Tehran today and want to thank the Iranian authorities, particularly my counterpart Mr. Habibollahzadeh, for facilitating the trip," Sharma said in a statement issued by the Foreign Office and quoted by AFP.

"I held detailed and constructive discussions with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about taking forward our bilateral relationship on a step-by-step and reciprocal basis," said Sharma, who said he also visited the British embassy compounds "to assess the damage caused" in November 2011 when they were stormed by hundreds of Islamist students.

The students - protesting against Western sanctions over Iran's disputed nuclear program - ransacked the building as well as the British ambassador's residence in north Tehran. The riot caused Britain to shut down the embassy and sever its ties with Iran.

Britain resumed its ties with Iran last month, naming Sharma as the charge d’affaires, a diplomatic post that is one level below ambassador.

A week later, British Prime Minister David Cameron became the first UK prime minister in more than a decade to call an Iranian president when he phoned President Hassan Rouhani to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

The two men "agreed to continue efforts to improve the relationship" between the UK and Iran, a spokesman from 10 Downing Street said at the time.

The phone call between the two came several days before a nuclear deal was signed in Geneva between Iran and Western powers.

Since being elected in June, Rouhani has worked to smooth relations with the West. His efforts were rewarded when he received a telephone call from U.S. President Barack Obama in September, the first of its kind between an American and Iranian president in more than three decades.