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Iran: Rouhani invites UK's ex-foreign minister to inauguration - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this Monday, June 17, 2013 file photo, Iranian President-elect Hasan Rouhani, places his hand on his heart as a sign of respect, after speaking at a news conference, in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

In this Monday, June 17, 2013, file photo, Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani, places his hand on his heart as a sign of respect after speaking at a news conference in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—In what may be an attempt to improve relations with the West, Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani has invited a former British foreign minister to his inauguration, following the decision of the current British government not to attend the ceremony.

Iran’s foreign ministry announced on Tuesday that it would invite leaders and officials from around the world the inauguration of Rouhani on August 4, with the exception of the US and Israel.

In response to the Iranian invitation, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said yesterday: “The EU position is that local embassies may send representatives. As the UK does not have an embassy in Tehran, we will not attend.”

Diplomatic ties between the UK and Iran have been dormant since 2011, when a mob attacked the British embassy in Tehran, prompting the British government to expel Iranian diplomats from the UK.

The UK government’s decision was criticized by the official opposition in the British parliament, the Labour Party. Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said London’s response to the invitation from Iran “represents both a misjudgement and a missed opportunity.”

“Diplomacy involves meeting with people with whom you disagree. The UK should be working with other EU countries to engage with the new Iranian President,” he said.

Another Labour MP, Jack Straw, who served as foreign minister in the Labour government of Tony Blair, was reportedly invited to the inauguration by a representative of president-elect Hassan Rouhani.

Straw and Rouhani became acquainted when both took part in international negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) over Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

According to a report in London’s Times newspaper, Straw will be unable to attend the ceremony because of family commitments, but expressed a desire to visit Tehran in the near future.

“I have made clear to the Iranian Government that I would be delighted to visit Tehran, either in the next ten days or in the weeks after the inauguration,” Straw said.

“I have a high regard for Dr Rouhani. I believe it is in our interest to reach a negotiated settlement with the Iranians on all outstanding issues including the nuclear dossier and I have every confidence in his good faith. He is tough but a man of his word.”

Straw’s declaration was welcomed by some members of the Iranian parliament. Tehran MP Ali Motahari told the Iranian Students’ News Agency that in his opinion, the stated willingness of Britain’s former foreign minister Jack Straw to go to Tehran was a positive development.

He said: “If some MPs ask for Jack Straw’s apology to the Iranian people, the occupiers of the UK embassy in Tehran must apologize too.”

Motahari highlighted Rouhani’s moderation slogan, saying: “Moderation in such a situation means to behave reasonably.”

Lebanese president Michel Suleiman, Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, Tajik president Emomali Rahmon and Syrian prime minister Wael Al-Halqi have announced they will attend the ceremony.

Vice president Khazir al-Khazai and minister of development Cevdet Yilmaz will represent Iraq and Turkey respectively. Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Azerbaijan and South American states will also dispatch high-level delegations to the event.

The inauguration ceremony will take pace a day after his endorsement ceremony by Iran’s head of state, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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