Govt defends envoy's presence at Iran inauguration

LONDON — Britain's ambassador to Iran attended the inauguration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday because "hard-headed diplomacy" is required in dealings with the country, the Foreign Office said.

Although ambassador Simon Gass was present at the ceremony in Tehran, Britain did not send a message of congratulations to Ahmadinejad, the statement said.

Britain had made its position clear about the "abuse of human rights" that followed Ahmadinejad's victory in the June 12 election, which opposition supporters claim was rigged, the Foreign Office said.

"It is partly for that reason Iran has consistently singled out Britain for attack, repeatedly complaining to us about our positions," it added.

But there were serious issues that Britain needs to address with Iran, "including the international community's legitimate and pressing concerns about Iran's nuclear programme" and the "very concerning" human rights situation.

"Trying to make progress on these difficult but crucial issues requires hard-headed diplomacy. That does not mean 'business as usual' with Iran... But it does mean communication channels have to be kept open," the statement added.

France and Sweden, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, were among other European countries to send envoys to the inauguration.

The United States meanwhile said it acknowledged ... >>>

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