Britain names ambassador to Tehran

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN AND Iran are on the verge of a formal exchange of ambassadors, which would restore normal relations between the two countries for the first time since the Shah was overthrown in 1979.

Britain's first ambassador since the revolution that swept the clerics to power will be Nicholas Browne - who was charge d'affaires for five weeks in early 1989 before Tehran broke off diplomatic relations completely because of the Salman Rushdie affair. Mr Browne is expected to take up his post in the next few weeks, or possibly sooner.

Diplomatic ties between London and Tehran resumed in October 1990, but only at charge level. But the climate improved sharply after the reformist President Mohammad Khatami gained the upper hand in his struggle with conservative clerical leaders.

The exchange of ambassadors was agreed last autumn by Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, and his Iranian opposite number, Kamal Kharrazi.

Although the fatwa imposed by religious group againstRushdie after the publication of The Satanic Verses still stands - indeed the bounty on his head was recently increased to $2.8m (pounds 1.8m) - the Iranian government has met a British demand by disowning the death sentence. European Union ambassadors were withdrawn in 1997 over allegations that Iran had been behind the murder of two Kurdish dissidents in Germany. Europe's envoys are now back in Tehran - putting their countries in a position to reap the economic and political fruits as Iran reopens to the outside world.