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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Iran visit may help US ties
Iranians burn a US flag
US relations with Iran were severed in 1979
As British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw prepares to visit Iran, BBC Teheran correspondent Jim Muir examines the significance of his groundbreaking trip.

Jack Straw's surprise announcement shows how much the current crisis is moving things rapidly on.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Jack Straw is keen to improve relations between Britain and Iran
It has clearly provided an opening for Iran and Britain to move closer together and for Britain to act as a channel of communication with its close ally, the United States.

British officials are talking of a window of opportunity but it is an opportunity which may not last for long.

War is looming and the Americans are warning that all other nations have either to be with Washington or with the terrorists.

That presents a stark choice for Iran; its relations are bad both with the United States and with the Taleban.

Anti-terror coalition

Mr Straw's visit comes in the context of western coalition building.

Iran, however, can clearly not simply jump on an American bandwagon without any other consideration.

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Afghanistan’s neighbours: Regional fears

But exploring a new relationship with Britain could help find a middle way if, indeed, there is a middle way to be found.

Mr Straw's predecessor, Robin Cook, had planned to make a groundbreaking visit to Teheran, but it was postponed several times because of a delicate political situation here and the extreme historical sensitivity of relations between the two countries.

Such is the magnitude of the current crisis that considerations like that have clearly gone by the board.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Louise Bevan
"Jack Straw will be travelling to Iran to discuss the current crisis"
Kamal Kharrazi, Iranian Foreign Minister
"This incident should not lead to a clash of civilisations"
See also:

21 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Terror attacks: Lib Dem views
21 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair pledges solidarity with US
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