Sunday Life

Sands running out on Tehran tribute

By Stephen Breen

18 January 2004
UK pressure is mounting on Iran, to rename a street in the nation's capital honouring IRA hunger striker, Bobby Sands.

For the street, in the heart of Tehran, is home to the British Embassy!

Sunday Life understands British officials have made fresh moves to persuade the Iranian government to change the name, in a bid to improve relations.

The avenue was named in honour of the IRA man, shortly after he starved himself to death, in May 1981.

There are several streets in Tehran named after notorious terrorists, from around the world.

It is believed the British moves were prompted as a result of the restoration of diplomatic relations between Iran and Egypt.

Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, insisted on the renaming of a Tehran Street honouring the man who assassinated his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, as a condition of restoring full ties.

Now the British are trying to get the authorities in Tehran to change the name of Bobby Sands Street.

A series of meetings, between British and Iranian officials, are due to be held next month, to discuss the matter.

The name has long been a thorn in the side of UK authorities.

In one well-reported incident, in 1981, the British ambassador tried to persuade the Iranians to change the name, by asking a Tehran official how he would like the street in which the Iranian mission was based, in London, to be renamed in honour of the deposed Shah.

The British are keen to improve relations with Iran, and other countries in the Middle East, following on from the major breakthrough, last year, when Libya's Colonel Gaddafi promised to destroy all the weapons of mass destruction he possesses.

A Foreign Office source agreed that renaming the street would help improve relations.

Said the source: "The street's name is not a major issue for the British officials in Iran, but clearly it is something they are not happy about.

"They obviously can't tell the Iranians who they should name their streets after, but the British nationals employed at the embassy don't want to be located in a street named after a man whose organisation brought terror to the UK."

An official Foreign Office spokesman confirmed the Government was continuing to "build on" relations with Iran.

Added the spokesman: "Britain now has good diplomatic relations with Iran, and will continue to work on these relationships.

"It is ultimately up to the Iranian authorities who they name their streets after. Nothing has been decided yet, on the possibility of Bobby Sands Street being renamed."

sbreen@belfast telegraph.co.uk

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