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US launches virtual embassy in Iran

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More than three decades after the US embassy in Tehran was closed, the US has officially opened a virtual embassy for Iran to encourage dialogue with the Iranian people and to help Iranians with their US visa applications.

The web-based embassy went online 6 December with versions in English and Farsi. Diplomatic relations with Iran were cut off decades ago following the 1979 Islamic revolution and hostage crisis. There is no US Embassy in Iran. Instead the US Government has chosen a virtual diplomatic mission to further expand its effort to reach out to Iranians.

In a video message, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the virtual embassy was an attempt to make up for the loss of dialogue between Americans and Iranians since the closure of the physical embassy in Tehran.

"Because the United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, we have missed some important opportunities for dialogue with you, the citizens of Iran," Clinton said. "This is a platform for us to communicate with each other — openly and without fear — about the United States, about our policies, our culture, and the American people."

The new virtual embassy provides information on visa applications, news from the US and information on how Iranian students can choose a US university to study in America. The web-based embassy will allow Iranians to partly complete applications for US visas, however, applicants will still need to go overseas, typically to Turkey or the United Arab Emirates, to obtain their visa.

This news comes one week after the United Kingdom shut down their British embassy in Iran as a result of the growing tension between the two countries following an attack on the embassy compound in Tehran on 29 November 2011.

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