British embassy in Iran to reopen after four years

London, Aug 21 (IANS) British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond will formally reopen the country’s embassy in Iranian capital Tehran on Sunday, nearly four years after it was shut down due to a mob attack, a media report said.

The Iranian embassy in London will also be reopened at the same time, The Guardian reported.

Hammond’s Tehran trip, the first by a British foreign secretary in nearly 12 years, follows visits from the French and Italian foreign ministers, Germany’s vice chancellor, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief.

Hammond will be accompanied by a comprising business leaders as well as the Foreign Office political director, Simon Gass, who represented Britain in the marathon talks leading up to the conclusion of the “joint comprehensive plan of action”, in which Iran accepted limits on its nuclear programme while Britain and five other major powers — US, France, France, Russia and China — agreed to lift sanctions.

The British ambassador’s residence and some of the embassy buildings in Tehran have been restored since they were stormed and ransacked in November 2011 by a crowd of activists angered at Britain’s imposition of sanctions on Iran. The mob included members of the paramilitary “basij” brigades, under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. The protesters climbed the walls of the embassy, burned the British flag and looted property from the living quarters.

The reopened British embassy will be staffed initially by a small number of diplomats led by Ajay Sharma, who has been non-resident chargé d’affaires since 2013.

The last British foreign secretary to visit Tehran was Jack Straw in 2003.

In the absence of embassies, about 400,000 Iranian nationals living in Britain, and fewer than 100 Britons residing in Iran, have faced difficulties with consular services, such as passport renewal or consular access.

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