UK Politics

Jack Straw 'optimistic' over Iran future after Tehran visit

Jack Straw, Lord Lamont and Ben Wallace meet a member of the Iranian Parliament Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Straw said the West had often made "appalling" judgements over Iran

Former foreign secretary Jack Straw has said he detects a "lighter atmosphere" in Iran and believes President Rouhani is "committed to change".

Speaking after returning from a visit to Tehran, Mr Straw said Iran's new leadership wanted to bring the country "in from the cold" and have a "normal relationship" with the West.

Iran recently agreed an interim deal to limit its nuclear programme.

Mr Straw said he was optimistic but the West must not push Tehran "too far".

Israel has criticised November's agreement between Iran and the international community, which will see some sanctions eased in return for Tehran's commitment to limit its uranium enrichment programme for civil purposes only.

'Proper relationship'

Mr Straw said he hoped a lasting deal could be reached and achieving this would boost the moderate forces in Iran.

The Labour MP has just returned from a three-day visit to the country, where he was accompanied by former Chancellor Lord Lamont, Conservative MP Ben Wallace and Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn as guests of the Iranian Parliament.

The parliamentary delegation had 15 meetings with administration officials as well as critics of the government, although it did not meet political dissidents.

"There are any number of people amongst the conservatives who want to say that no good will ever come of visits from the West, and essentially want to isolate Iran from the West," Mr Straw told the BBC.

"Whereas President Rouhani and his colleagues want a proper and normal relationship not only with the West but the rest of the world, and they want Iran to come in from the cold," said Mr Straw.

'Malign'

Mr Straw said the international community, including the UK, had often had a "malign influence" on Iranian affairs since the 1950s and must now do everything it could to help to support the president and not to give succour to "hardliners".

"What's important is that President Rouhani is there, he's very committed to change but he faces his own difficulties and how the West reacts to this can either help or significantly undermine him and so it's really important that we build up better understanding of the position of Iran."

"This never has been a one-man dictatorship.

"It's not a classic Western democracy by any means but there's a very lively political situation which President Rouhani has to navigate."

The UK government has said Tehran will face serious repercussions if it does not live up to its nuclear commitments.

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