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Iran rejects UK ambassador

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has discussed the dispute over Reddaway with President Khatami
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has discussed the dispute over Reddaway with President Khatami  

LONDON, London -- A diplomatic row has broken out between Iran and Britain which threatens to sour their recently improved relations.

The Foreign Office in London says Tehran has rejected the man chosen to be Britain's new ambassador to Iran.

David Reddaway, 48, who is married to an Iranian and speaks fluent Farsi, has been accused in conservative Iranian newspapers of being Jewish and a spy.

The Foreign Office insists that he is a genuine diplomat, who has also worked in Madrid, Buenos Aires and New Delhi, and is not an intelligence officer using diplomatic cover.

In response, Britain is to limit the access it gives Iran's ambassador in London and says that its relations with Tehran will become "more critical."

At a glance: Iran

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In a statement, the Foreign Office said: "We can confirm that Iran has refused to accept David Reddaway as ambassador. There are no plans at present to put forward anyone else."

A Foreign Office sources told CNN David Reddaway was "exceptionally well qualified" for the job. They said the rejection had complicated ties between the two countries and that Britain had no plans to nominate anyone else.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told the official Islamic Republic News Agency that his government's rejection of Reddaway was not unprecedented.

"It has occurred many times in diplomatic relations among various countries around the world, without undermining their relations," he was quoted as saying.

"Regulating relations between two countries is a two-sided affair, and, basically, countries benefits from the quality of these relations jointly and mutually," he said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed the issue in a telephone conversation with Iran's reformist President Khatami last month but was unable to bring about a change of heart.

The rejection comes as Britain's relations with Iran were improving.

In 1998 the Iranian government signalled it would not actively pursue the fatwa issued by the late Ayatollah Khomeini against the British author Salman Rushdie, whose novel Satanic Verses provoked fury in the Muslim world.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has made two visits to Tehran, becoming the first UK foreign secretary to set foot in the country since the fall of the Shah in 1979.


• UK minister to visit Iran, Pakistan
November 21, 2001
• Straw lobbies Afghan neighbours
November 22, 2001
• Britain's Straw to visit Iran
September 21, 2001
• Iran urged join 'war on terror'
September 24, 2001
• Blair and Khatami discuss response
September 20, 2001

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