TEHRAN (FNA)- Shadow Foreign Office Minister David Lidington hopes that a future Conservative government in Britain would lead to better relations between London and Tehran.
The 52-year old Tory MP, who has recently returned from a visit to Tehran, was also hopeful of an improvement in US-Iran relations following recent overtures made by Washington, including possibility of opening an American interests office in Tehran.
“Iran is a significant power in the region. It is a country with a rich cultural history and a sense of its national identity that goes back over many centuries,” Lidington said.
“It’s a serious country in world affairs and also a country with a very young population with ambitions for economic advance,” he said.
In an interview with IRNA, the shadow minister said he “would hope” that a Conservative government would have better relations with Iran after the next general elections, which is due in less than two years and the opposition party are favorites to win.
“There are tremendous opportunities for better economic, educational and cultural relations between United Kingdom and Iran,” he said.
But Lidington also cautioned that “the extent to which we can achieve that improvement in relations does I think depend overwhelmingly on getting the nuclear issue resolved.”
“I would hope that we could see an improvement not just in relations between Iran and the United Kingdom but also between Iran and the United States,” he added.
“The people of Iran are much more friendly than I had expected,” he said.
Regarding the nuclear issue, Lidington said that he spent a lot of time discussing it with the Iranian officials and politicians and that he agreed “Iran under the NPT has the right to civilian nuclear energy.”
The ‘freeze for freeze’ option that was proposed in Geneva, he also said was “a good starting point for negotiations. I very much hope that we see move forward on that front.”
The shadow foreign secretary dismissed suggestions that recent British moves to impose further EU sanctions against Iran was not conducive to improving relations and encouraging Iran to further cooperate.
“There are enormous opportunities for British business to develop in Iran. So no sane British government wants to have these sanctions for longer than is necessary,” Lidington argued.
In his wide-ranging interview, the shadow minister suggested that Britain and Iran could work more closely together in combating drugs in Afghanistan at a time when UK troops are deployed there to restore security and help develop the country.
“I very much hope that we can rebuild the cooperation between UK and Iran in combating drug trafficking. Certainly when I met the British ambassador to Iran at his embassy, this was something that he said to me he would be keen to do,” he added.
Lidington also believed that Iran had a positive role to play in the redevelopment of Iraq following the US-UK war to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime.
“Good relations between these two powerful neighbors are very, very important,” he stressed.
“Running Iraq is going to be a very challenging job to put it mildly and I think Mr. Maliki deserves support from all his neighbors in trying to help bring stability and then hopefully prosperity to that country,” he said.
The shadow minister also confirmed that British troops did not want to stay any longer than necessary in Iraq and that the present Labor government or a future Conservative one would be “guided very much by the judgment of our military commanders on the ground”.