Britain hopes to re-open Iran embassy by year-end: Foreign minister

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond hopes to reopen the British Embassy in Iran before the end of the year. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain hopes to re-open its embassy in Iran before the end of the year, foreign minister Philip Hammond said on Wednesday following an agreement between Iran and six major world powers over Tehran's nuclear programme.

After more than a decade of negotiations, Iran agreed on Tuesday to long-term curbs on a nuclear programme that the West suspected was aimed at creating an atomic bomb. In return, the United States, European Union and United Nations will lift sanctions and unfreeze billions of dollars of Iranian assets.

"I very much hope that we will be in a position to re-open our respective embassies before the end of the year," Hammond said in parliament.

The re-opening was dependent on resolving some technical issues, he added, without elaborating.

Diplomatic relations were suspended and the British embassy was closed after hundreds of Iranian demonstrators stormed the building in November 2011.

Hammond also said he had spoken to British finance minister George Osborne to ensure that the country was ready to capitalise on the "quite substantial" business opportunities that would arise from the diplomatic agreement.

"I think Iran will want to use some of the unfrozen assets to address some really very large infrastructure deficits, including in the oil and gas production industry, where the UK is very well placed to play a role," Hammond said.

Hammond said around 90 billion pounds (S$191 billion) of Iranian assets could be released over time as a result of the deal.

Tuesday's deal, he added, should reassure the rest of the world that all routes for Iran to develop a nuclear bomb have been closed off, and that the deal could have wider positive consequences.

Asked about Israel's opposition to the diplomatic agreement, Hammond said Tel Aviv would not have been satisfied with any kind of nuclear deal with Iran and instead wanted a state of permanent stand-off in the region.

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