Iran hopes a new British envoy will improve ties

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Iran said on Tuesday that if changing the British ambassador to Tehran paves the way for "reform" in Tehran's ties with London then it is to be welcomed.

A week ago, NATO named current British ambassador Simon Gass as its new top civilian envoy in Afghanistan to help steer the handover of battlefield command to Afghan forces.

"If this change is being done with the intention of reforming the hostile policy of the British government, then we welcome it," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters at his weekly news conference.

"We think that the changes should expand to include all aspects of the British government's policies which were against our people. This could be a beginning to reforming the erroneous trends of the past."

Last December, an influential group of Iranian MPs backed a motion to cut all ties with Britain after Gass criticised the Islamic republic on human rights.

Parliament's foreign policy and national security commission voted in favour of a draft bill to sever ties with London.

Gass angered Iranian conservatives by saying that lawyers, journalists and NGO workers were "nowhere under greater threat than in Iran."

Britain's junior foreign office minister Alistair Burt has rejected calls in the Iranian press for Gass to be recalled, saying he had the "full support" of the government.

Tehran's ties with London have deteriorated since Iran accused Britain of backing the opposition and fomenting unrest after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in June 2009.

Iranian leaders have also pointed the finger at Britain's MI6 secret service as well as US and Israeli intelligence in the murder of a top nuclear scientist last November.

© 2011 AFP

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