Iran reopens embassy wrecked in 1980 siege

AFTER nearly 14 years as a gutted wreck that often reflected the state of Anglo-Iranian relations, the Iranian embassy in London was re-inaugurated yesterday. The building at 16 Prince's Gate, where the SAS successfully ended a week-long siege in May 1980, has been restored at a cost of more than pounds 5m to an opulence that seems oddly out of place in view of the still troubled relationship.

After the charge d'affaires hoisted the Islamic Republic's flag from one of the balconies once used by the SAS to rescue embassy staff held hostage, guests were invited to inspect the marble and chandeliers adorning the rooms reflecting traditional Islamic architecture. A glass cage held a state-of-the-art computerised switchboard adorned with pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini and his successor as spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

For those female guests who had not visited an Iranian mission before, a tray of assorted and neatly folded silk squares was brought in to serve as temporary hejab (even in the West, Iranian embassies invite female visitors to cover their heads).

Over orange juice at a small reception, the charge, Gholamreza Ansari, explained that he had 'deliberately kept the ceremony at a minimum as a sign of respect for the two members of staff who lost their lives 13 years ago'. The two were killed by Iraqi-backed gunmen who seized the embassy over demands for the release of political prioners in Iran.

The SAS Counter-Revolutionary Warfare Team made a spectacular assault on the building, killing four of the five gunmen and rescuing the surviving 19 hostages. One of the captives, PC Trevor Lock, became a national hero for easing the rescue operation from within. A Iranian survivor of the siege recalled yesterday: 'I thought we were going to be burned alive.'

Mr Ansari said: 'At this point it may be appropriate once again to thank the British authorities for their efforts to bring the siege to an end at the time and for their assistance in the reconstruction of our new embassy building.' Under a legal compensation settlement, Britain paid pounds 1.82m of the reparation cost (the more than pounds 3m remaining was paid by the cash-strapped Iranian government); in return, Iran paid around pounds 1m for damages caused to the British embassy in Tehran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

He added: 'Relations between the United Kingdom and Iran are centuries old. In my part of the world we have a special respect for old things. Let us hope that this enhancement of the form will be matched by a similar amount of improvement in the content of bilateral relations.'

Because of claims that Iran is a state-sponsor of terrorism - and the bilateral problem of the fatwa against the author Salman Rushdie - Britain has consistently resisted upgrading relations with Tehran to ambassadorial level.

But Mr Ansari yesterday insisted it was his country that was the target of terrorism: 'The Islamic Republic of Iran has been an innocent victim of terrorism from the very beginning of its establishment.' The siege was but 'one of many incidents of terrorism suffered by the people of the Islamic Republic'. He cited, among other incidents, the assassination of 70 clerics and politicians in Tehran in the 1980s.

(Photographs omitted)

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform