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Britain to reopen embassy in Iran on Bobby Sands Street

Published 20/08/2015

A file picture taken in Tehran on November 29, 2011, shows Iranian protesters gathering outside the British embassy as some break into it and bring down the Union flag. AFP/Getty Images
A file picture taken in Tehran on November 29, 2011, shows Iranian protesters gathering outside the British embassy as some break into it and bring down the Union flag. AFP/Getty Images

Britain is to reopen its embassy in Iran, situated on a street named after IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, nearly four years after it was shut down.

Philip Hammond is to visit Tehran as the UK reopens the embassy for the first time since it was attacked by a mob in 2011.

The recent nuclear deal accelerated a thaw in diplomatic relations with Tehran and opened the door to the first such visit to the country by a British foreign secretary since 2001.

A senior Government source confirmed that Mr Hammond would fly out to the country over the weekend with a delegation of business leaders and senior officials.

It is the latest in a rush of missions by his international counterparts as Western allies all seek to take advantage of the improved atmosphere.

The embassy was closed almost four years ago after it was ransacked by a mob protesting against the imposition of international sanctions.

Some will be lifted in return for assurances that Iran's nuclear programme is not aimed at producing a weapon under the deal struck by the UK and five other nations in July.

The reopening of the embassy has been plagued by technical obstacles for more than a year since it was first proposed publicly by Mr Hammond's predecessor William Hague.

Tehran's reluctance to relax import laws has slowed the replacement of communications and other equipment taken out when the post was abandoned.

And the Home Office sought assurances over visa regulations amid fears that it would otherwise be unable to deal with Iranians who overstayed their right to be in the UK.

Iranian government changed the name of the street where the British Embassy is based from Winston Churchill Street to Bobby Sands Street in 1981. Image: Google Maps
Iranian government changed the name of the street where the British Embassy is based from Winston Churchill Street to Bobby Sands Street in 1981. Image: Google Maps

Background

The Iranian government officially changed the name of the street where the British Embassy is based from Winston Churchill Street to Bobby Sands Street in 1981. In response the British government sealed the entrance to the embassy on Bobby Sands Street and knocked through a wall into Ferdowsi Avenue to create a new entry point.

Despite reported lobbying by the UK to change the name, it remains Bobby Sands Street.

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