Agreement between Britain and Iran to resume diplomatic ties has raised hopes that British hostages in Lebanon may be freed soon and that author Salman Rushdie can again live without fear of assassination.
The London newspaper The Guardian quoted unnamed British officials Friday as saying that following Thursday's announcement at the United Nations of resumed ties, Rushdie should be able to resume a normal life.Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd and Iran's U.N. Mission said the embassies will reopen in London and Tehran within a month.
Iran cut diplomatic ties with Britain in March 1989 over Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses," which many Moslems regard as blasphemous.
Iran's late religious leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had called on Moslems to kill the Indian-born writer. Rushdie, a naturalized Briton, remains in hiding under British police guard.
Paul Handley, spokesman for Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie said the resumption of diplomatic ties between Iran and Britain was good news for the three British hostages.
Runcie's envoy, Terry Waite, was seized in January 1987 trying to negotiate the freedom of American hostages.
"Of course it does not mean all the problems are solved," added Handley. "But they will be much easier to solve through normal diplomatic channels."
Pressure on Britain to get talking to Iran about Waite and the two other hostages - television journalist John McCarthy and retired fighter pilot Jack Mann - increased this month with the release of Irish teacher Brian Keenan.
It made Britain the only Western country which has so far failed to get a single hostage released from Lebanon.
Speaking on TV-AM this morning, Waite's brother David called the move "a major step forward" which would allow problems between the two countries to be resolved more easily.
"I just hope the families of all the other hostages don't have to cope much longer," Waite said.