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Volume 490: debated on Monday 23 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the state of diplomatic relations with Iran. (265711)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said many times that the UK would like to have a positive and constructive relationship with Iran—a relationship which is based on mutual respect and is not a prisoner of history. We believe that we have important shared interests in Iran's neighbourhood, including stability, security and economic development in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, we and the rest of the international community have significant and legitimate concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions, its activity in the region, and its repression of its own people. Iran must address these if our relationship is to move forward. The Iranian authorities are also responsible for unacceptable harassment of our staff in Tehran, both UK based and Iranian—pressure which has forced the British Council to suspend its operation in Iran, and which obstructs the legitimate activities of our embassy. We have raised this with the Iranian authorities on numerous occasions, and we regret that they have done nothing to address this.