Britain open to cautious Iran talks

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IOL  rowhani iran AFP File photo: Iranian president Hassan Rowhani.

London - Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday he was willing to meet his Iranian counterpart to discuss the two countries' frosty relationship, following the election of a new president in Iran.

Britain, at odds with Iran over its nuclear programme and other issues, shut its embassy in Tehran after what it called “an attack by government-sponsored militias” on the mission in November 2011. Iran's embassy in London was also closed.

The Foreign Office said in a statement that Hague was ready to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to discuss relations on a “step-by-step” and a “reciprocal” basis.

He also stressed the need for urgent progress to resolve international concerns about Iran's nuclear programme.

Western countries and Israel have said in the past they believe Iran is trying to achieve nuclear weapons capability. Tehran says its programme is for purely civilian purposes.

Years of diplomacy and sanctions have failed to resolve the dispute, raising fears of Israeli military action against its arch-foe, something which might ignite a new Middle Eastern war.

Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in June, has promised a less confrontational approach in nuclear talks with foreign powers than the one adopted by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Hague suggested he could meet Salehi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.

He also raised Britain's concerns about the case of Abbas Yazdi, a dual British-Iranian national who reportedly went missing in Dubai in June, the Foreign Office said.

Reuters

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