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July 26, 2013 12:56 pm

UK’s Labour Party: UK ‘Missing Opportunity’ to Engage Iran by Not Attending Presidential Inauguration

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UK's embassy in Iran Tehran. Photo: Ladsgroup.

The shadow foreign minister of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, whose leader, Ed Miliband, is Jewish, said it would be a mistake for the country to not send a representative to Iran’s August 4th presidential inauguration.

John Spellar told the BBC that “engaging” with Tehran did not have to “imply approval” of the Iranian regime.

Spellar told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “Diplomacy is about recognizing facts, even if you disagree with people. There’s a huge range of issues, it’s not just the nuclear issue that obviously there’s been great focus on, but for example with the drawdown in Afghanistan.”

He said neighboring countries like Iran would be “crucial players in ensuring stability and progress” in Afghanistan.

“They can either be a constructive or non-constructive part of that, it’s hugely important to engage, and I think it’s a missed opportunity to start to establish links, to start to see where there may be common ground and to start to make progress towards more normal relations.

“It’s not about celebration, it’s not about showing approval… it’s about doing business, it’s about properly engaging,” he said.

In a rare move, Iran has invited officials from foreign governments to attend the inauguration–although it did not extend the invitation to the United Sates or Israel.

UK diplomatic staff were withdrawn from Iran and the British embassy closed in 2011, after it was attacked by protesters.

According to the BBC, an agreement among EU members means that only those with an embassy in Tehran will send representatives to the ceremony.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “As the UK does not have an embassy or an ambassador in Tehran we are not attending. Diplomatic relations with Iran were reduced to the lowest level possible after the unprovoked attack on our embassy in 2011.”

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