U.K. to Reopen Tehran Embassy in Sign of Warming Relations

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Britain announced Tuesday that its embassy in Tehran will reopen, the latest sign of warming relations between Iran and the U.K. nearly three years after a mob overran the diplomatic compound.

The U.K. closed its outpost after demonstrators stormed the mission, tearing down flags and looting portraits of Queen Elizabeth II. The incident added to mounting tensions between the two nations over Tehran's nuclear program and refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

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But there have been signs of thawing relations in recent months following the election of moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and evidenced by the mutual agreements by both countries in November to appoint non-resident charge d'affaires in Tehran and London.

On Tuesday, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said he has decided "the circumstances are right" to reopen the embassy in Tehran.

"There are a range of practical issues that we will need to resolve first," he said in a written statement to Parliament. "However, it is our intention to reopen the embassy in Tehran with a small initial presence as soon as these practical arrangements have been made."

Hague said that the two primary concerns over reopening the embassy had been the ability to ensure staff safety and security, and the ability for employees to carry out their work without hindrance.

"There has never been any doubt in my mind that we should have an Embassy in Tehran if the circumstances allowed," Hague said, adding that he had spoken to Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over the weekend to discuss progress made to date.

Protesters gather in front of riot police and climb a security gate as they prepare to storm the British Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 29, 2011.FarsNews via Getty Images, file

Since the installment of the non-resident charges d'affaires, "bilateral engagement" has expanded, with U.K. and Iranian officials paying regular visits to each others' capitals, Hague said.

"This has enabled us to make a range of practical improvements to the functioning of our respective embassies," he said. "And it has allowed us to discuss a broad range of issues, including areas where we and Iran have sharply differing views."

- Cassandra Vinograd