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Former UK envoy welcomes US overtures towards Iran

London, July 19, IRNA - Former British ambassador to Tehran, Sir Richard Dalton has welcomed US overtures towards Iran, including sending an official to Geneva talks and reports of Washington's plans to open an office in the Iranian capital.

"It's a welcome development; I would welcome an improvement in the tone of relations between Iran and the United States," Dalton said in an interview with IRNA.

He suggested that in due course the participation of American under secretary of state, William Burns, in the 5 + 1 talks in Geneva could lead to 'talks of substance between Iran and the United States' once progress has been made in the multilateral discussions.

"But I emphasize that I don't think that would happen until there's been progress in the multilateral talks that the six powers are conducting," the former envoy reiterated.

"It is right to draw the attention to the fact that there's been a slight and welcome change in the way in which US conduct its business with Iran but this should not be seen as a change in the relationship," he added.

Dalton, who served as UK ambassador in Iran between 2002 and 2006 and is now an advisor to Chatham House think-tank in London, played down the significance of the reported US aim of opening an office in Tehran but welcomed the move 'unreservedly'.

"I don't think there are huge political objectives behind the opening of US interests section and it should be taken at face value as the suggestion is of a small step to begin narrowing the differences between the two sides," he said.

"I know from my personal experience how difficult the political issues are and in connection with United States the issues are much more difficult than they are in connection with Britain which has been difficult enough," the retired diplomat said.

"You can't proceed directly to the situation of good relations and the ability to discuss all matters of joint interests between two countries. This process has to start from somewhere," he said.

"It is right to begin with a small step like expanding American representation in Tehran and showing that among the representative are people who are from Washington rather than simply those who are in the Swiss embassy."

Dalton said that he was 'one of those who has always expressed the hope in public and private that United States would follow the example of others and try to recreate dialogue, engagement and diplomatic relationship'.

Asked about the timing of the overtures, he said that it was his view that it was because the Americans are 'seeking to explore different approaches to settling their issues with Iran'.

"They are going to explore these matters very carefully and they would want to see whether Iran is prepared to reciprocate," the former envoy said.

"The Iranians cannot expect United States to move in their direction if the Iranian government is not prepared to move in the direction of America," he added.

"We all want to see the huge differences that divide these two great countries narrowed and let's hope that this initiative will turn out in the long-term perspective to have been one of the first steps," Dalton said.

On the Geneva talks, he sided with the British government in asserting that it would 'diminish any hope of a result' if Iran continued to refuse the request to suspend uranium enrichment.

"The offers that have been made for concrete cooperation with Iran are immensely valuable both in connection with the development of a civilian nuclear power industry in Iran -- sovereign development of civil nuclear power -- for the benefit of the Iranian people, but also in many other areas," the former ambassador argued.

"It would be most unfortunate if Iran maintained its view and continued to turn its back on the kind of long-term cooperation agreement which is being held out," he added.

... Payvand News - 07/20/08 ... --

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