* UK says it will re-open Tehran embassy
* Embassy was shut after mob ransacked it in 2011
* Election of new Iranian president has thawed ties
* West, UK looking for Iran to help in Iraq
(Recasts, updates after Hague comments to parliament)
By Andrew Osborn and William James
LONDON, June 17 Britain said on Tuesday it would
re-open its embassy in Iran "within months," after a hiatus of
more than two and a half years, a diplomatic breakthrough that
underscores the West's desire to secure Tehran's help in Iraq
The move came after the United States, a close British ally,
said it may launch air strikes and act jointly with arch-enemy
Iran to shore up the Iraqi government, after a rampage by Sunni
Islamist insurgents that has scrambled alliances in the Middle
The announcement, by British Foreign Secretary William
Hague, is likely to raise hopes of a breakthrough in talks with
world powers about Iran's disputed nuclear programme. It
coincided with negotiations aimed at securing such a
Britain severed direct diplomatic relations with Iran after
activists stormed its embassy in Tehran in late 2011. The 2013
election in Iran of a relative moderate, President Hassan
Rouhani, who replaced hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, paved the
way for a thaw in ties.
Hague said that Britain would move quickly to re-establish a
small initial presence at the Tehran embassy but said it
wouldn't be able to offer visa services to Iranians at first.
"Iran is an important country in a volatile region, and
maintaining Embassies around the world, even under difficult
conditions, is a central pillar of the UK's global diplomatic
approach," Hague said in a written statement to parliament. "I
have ... now decided the circumstances are right to reopen our
embassy in Tehran."
Hague said he had discussed the matter with Iranian Foreign
Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday and stressed the need
for embassy staff to be able to work without hindrance in
The decision did not mean Britain was "softening" any of its
policies towards Iran, he said.
"We look to Iran to cease support for sectarian groups
elsewhere in the Middle East, to reach a successful conclusion
to nuclear negotiations. But I do believe it is important to
discuss such issues with Iran and we need the ability to do so."
Calling for Iran to take a "more realistic approach" to
nuclear talks, Hague urged Iran to improve its ties with its
neighbours including the Gulf states to try to defuse tensions
in the region.
"Iran does have the capability to play a more positive role
across the region," Hague said. "It has played for many years a
divisive and sectarian role through supporting divisive or often
terrorist groups in other parts of the region."
It was now time for it to change tack, Hague said.
Britain's two diplomatic compounds in Tehran were overrun on
an afternoon in November 2011 in what London said was a
co-ordinated attack, after a rally against British sanctions
escalated into violence and protesters scaled the walls.
Although the protesters withdrew after a rampage lasting
several hours, Britain immediately withdrew all staff, closed
the embassy, and ejected Iranian diplomats from London.
It was the worst crisis between Britain and Iran since full
diplomatic relations were restored in 1999, a decade after
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's fatwa that British author Salman
Rushdie should be killed for writing "The Satanic Verses."
Indirect diplomatic ties were revived in November last year
when Britain appointed a non-resident charge d'affaires.
Hague has ruled out any military involvement in Iraq by
Britain, but he said a British "operational liaison and
reconnaissance team" arrived in Baghdad at the weekend and that
Britain would provide humanitarian assistance as needed.
He has said that as many as 400 British citizens may be
fighting in Syria and that some may also be fighting in Iraq
with ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
(Editing by Larry King)