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UK agrees to take steps with Iran toward reopening embassies

Thomas Penny

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 9 2013 11:43 a.m. MDT

Iranian police officers scuffle with protesters, as they prevent protesters from entering the British Embassy, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011.

Associated Press

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LONDON — Britain and Iran are taking the first steps toward reopening embassies in each other's capitals that have been closed for almost two years, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

Non-resident charges d'affaires will be appointed by the governments in London and Tehran after talks that followed the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iranian president in June, Hague told lawmakers in the House of Commons in London on Wednesday. He said he'd spoken by phone Tuesday to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, following meetings in New York last month.

"It is clear that the new president and ministers in Iran are presenting themselves and their country in a much more positive way than in the recent past," Hague said. "There is no doubt the tone of the meetings with them is different."

The U.K. closed its embassy in Iran in November 2011 after it was overrun by protesters and Britain accused the Iranians of failing to protect it as required under international law. Iranian diplomats were also expelled from London. Officials from the U.K. and Iran, which is subject to international sanctions over its nuclear program, will meet for talks next week in Geneva, the foreign secretary said.

Iran is due to hold talks on its nuclear program with the U.K., the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany in the Swiss city on Oct. 15-16.

Rouhani took office in August pledging to improve Iran's world standing and an economy hurt by sanctions imposed because of its nuclear work. He spoke by phone with U.S. President Barack Obama during his trip to the United Nations last month, in the highest-level diplomatic encounter between the two countries since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

The rebuilding of bilateral relations will be on a "step-by-step" basis, Hague said.

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