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Iran, Britain to exchange ambassadors soon: paper

TEHRAN, Jan 13 (AFP) - Iran and Britain are to upgrade their diplomatic relations to ambassadorial level following their agreement over the British writer Salman Rushdie, a newspaper here reported Wednesday.

The English-language Iran News, which is considered close to Iran's foreign ministry, said the two countries would promote their respective charges d'affaires Nicholas Browne and Gholamreza Ansari to ambassadors.

A senior British official is further expected to arrive here on Wednesday, according to diplomatic sources. Derek Plumbly, who heads the British Foreign Office's Middle East Department, is expected here for a two day visit.

The move comes in the wake of the Iranian government's pledge last September not to carry out the 1989 death sentence for blasphemy imposed on Rushdie by the late Iranian leader Ayatallah Ruhollah Khomeini, and after it disassociated itself from a 2.5-million-dollar bounty placed on Rushdie's head by an Iranian religious organisation.

The two countries agreed they would normalise damaged relations following the agreement, even though hardline conservatives here have have vowed to ignore the government's promises and execute the death sentence.


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