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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 10:34 GMT
Iran 'blocks UK ambassador'
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Relations had been improving between the countries
Britain's new ambassador to Iran has had his appointment blocked by Iranian Government officials, according to reports.

Iranian newspaper Jomhuri Islami said that the decision to appoint David Reddaway had angered Iran, who claimed he was not acceptable for the role as he was both Jewish and linked to Britain's MI6 secret service.

Mr Reddaway was to replace Nicholas Browne, who left the post in December.

Fluent in Farsi, the main Iranian language, 48 year-old Mr Reddaway previously served in Madrid, New Delhi and Buenos Aires.

The British Foreign Office did not comment on the newspaper's report, but the newspaper said that Britain had threatened to downgrade the Tehran post in retaliation.

Improving relations

The row threatens to mar what had been improving relations between the two countries since the fatwa issued by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini against British author Salman Rushdie was lifted in 1998.

Afghan refugees
Two million Afghan refugees are currently at the Iranian border

Four months ago Jack Straw became the first British foreign secretary to visit the country since the Islamic revolution in 1979, and praised what he described as a "new era" in relations between the two countries.

He was there to shore up support for the war against terror initiated following the 11 September attacks on America, which Iran had been quick to condemn.

An estimated five million Afghan refugees are living in camps in Pakistan and Iran.

See also:

09 Jan 02 | Middle East
Row threatens UK-Iran detente
29 Sep 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Iran's love-hate ties with the UK
25 Sep 01 | Middle East
UK fosters Iran relations
25 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iran to be shown terror evidence
12 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Thaw in UK relations with Iran
21 Sep 01 | UK Politics
UK foreign secretary to visit Iran
27 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
27 Dec 01 | Middle East
Timeline: Iran
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