Iranian Minister's Visit Draws Criticism from Human Rights Groups
Iran's Foreign Minister yesterday became the country's first official visitor to Britain since 1979, when the Islamic revolution toppled the Peacock Throne of the Shahs.
Dr Kamal Kharrazi met Mr Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Mr Robin Cook, as Britain sought to strengthen its fledgling relations with Iran.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries have begun to thaw since Iran's Government officially distanced itself from the fatwah, or death sentence, on author Salman Rushdie.
"We see this visit as a chance to build on recent improvements in our relations," said one British diplomatic source.
The meeting between Dr Kharrazi and Mr Blair was also symbolic of the importance attached to continuing to bolster Anglo-Iranian relations.
But Britain was to press Iran to improve its human rights record and sign international agreements on a range of issues, including weapons of mass destruction.
Ministers were to also raise the case of 13 Iranian Jews currently held on suspicion of spying for Israel.
The British Jewish community was planning a vigil by MPs, rabbis and community leaders in support of the 13.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The visit gives us a chance to bring up these issues."
During his two-day stay, Dr Kharrazi will address the prestigious Royal Institute of International Affairs, and attend a lunch in the City of London.
Yesterday the Prime Minister's official spokesman said Britain hoped that Dr Kharrazi's visit would contribute to the process of Iran's reintegration into the international community.
But the Government remained concerned about human rights issues in Iran. …