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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
UK foreign secretary to visit Iran
UK foreign secretary Jack Straw announces he will visit Iran
Jack Straw announces his historic visit to Iran
Jack Straw is to become the first UK foreign secretary to visit Iran since the 1979 revolution.

Mr Straw's trip is the latest in a hectic series of global diplomatic efforts since the terror attacks on the US 10 days ago.

President Khatami of Iran
Mr Khatami and Mr Blair spoke on the telephone

He announced that he would be making the historic trip shortly before Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Brussels for a summit of EU leaders after flying back from the US.

Mr Straw said he had planned to go to the country later in the year, but in the wake of a phone call between Mr Blair and Iran's President Khatami the visit had been brought forward to early next week.

Mr Straw said relations with the country had greatly improved in recent months.

He would also be visiting Israel and Jordan, he added.

As the crisis intensifies Britain has emerged as a channel of communication between the United States and Iran

Jim Muir
BBC correspondent
The BBC's Teheran correspondent Jim Muir said: "As the crisis intensifies Britain has emerged as a channel of communication between the United States and Iran which is desperately trying to avert what it fears will be a calamity, perhaps even greater than that inflicted on New York and Washington."

He added that Iran was concerned that a major assault on Afghanistan would cause another humanitarian disaster and trigger an anti-western backlash in the Muslim world.

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Afghanistan’s neighbours: Regional fears

Mr Straw had tough words for the Taleban government in Afghanistan who have asked prime suspect Osama Bin Laden to leave their country voluntarily in response to US demands to give him up.

He described the Taleban's offer as "puny and totally unacceptable".

Justice vow

During Mr Blair's flying visit to the US he attended an historic speech to Congress by President George W Bush in Washington.

This is a struggle that concerns us all

Tony Blair
The prime minister also attended a memorial service in New York for British victims of the hijack attacks.

In his address, President Bush vowed to bring justice to those responsible for the attacks and called on Afghanistan's Taleban leaders to hand over Bin Laden.

He said America had "no truer friend than Great Britain" and the two nations were once again joined "in a great cause".

Anti-terrorism measures

During his visit to the US, Mr Blair reaffirmed his pledge of solidarity with America.

He said the struggle against the type of terrorism responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington concerned "the whole of the democratic and civilised and free world".

"What happened on 11 September was of course a brutal and horrific attack on America, but it was a demonstration of what these people are capable of in any part of the world," he said.

Blair and Schroeder
Tony Blair is meeting EU leaders at summit
At Friday's summit, the EU heads of state will discuss the counter-terrorism campaign and "take stock of the international situation", an official said.

They are also expected to endorse new anti-terrorist measures agreed by EU justice and interior ministers in Brussels on Thursday.

The 37 proposed measures include an EU-wide search and arrest warrant.

More meetings

Between leaving London on Wednesday and arriving in Brussels, Mr Blair visited Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin and President Jacques Chirac in Paris.

Mr Blair, who will be joined by Mr Straw, is planning to hold more meetings with individual EU government leaders after arriving in Brussels several hours before the summit begins.

The summit could expose how far individual EU governments are prepared to go in offering practical support to the United States on the ground or in the air for the war against "global terrorism".

Mr Chirac has already suggested that France "will not stand aside in a fight against a scourge that defies all democracies".

But he said France would determine its contribution "after making an evaluation and after reaching agreement with the other Europeans and the Americans and all its other partners".

The BBC's Baqr Moin
"They see eye to eye on many issues on Afghanistan"
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
talks to the BBC's Alex Brodie about his forthcoming visit to Iran
Kamal Kharrazi, Iranian Foreign Minister
"This incident should not lead to a clash of civilisations"
See also:

21 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Iran visit may help US ties
21 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Twenty years of frosty relations
21 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Terror attacks: Lib Dem views
21 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair pledges solidarity with US
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