Iran General NewsBlair accuses Iran of whipping up trouble

Blair accuses Iran of whipping up trouble

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Reuters: Prime Minister Tony Blair accused Iran on Tuesday of trying to whip up the “maximum trouble” possible but said no one was contemplating military action against Tehran. By Adrian Croft

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Tony Blair accused Iran on Tuesday of trying to whip up the “maximum trouble” possible but said no one was contemplating military action against Tehran.

Blair accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons capability in defiance of the United Nations and of “deliberately fomenting sectarianism and conflict” in the region.

But he also held out an olive branch by saying “a whole series of doors” would open for Iran if it changed strategy.

“Their strategy is to create the maximum trouble for us and for the region and I think it’s a miscalculation because in the end they’re going to find that they assemble a very large coalition against them,” Blair said, citing Iranian influence on Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and elements of the Shi’ite militias in Iraq.

“Nobody is talking about military intervention in respect of Iran, but people are increasingly alarmed and concerned at the strategy they appear to be pursuing,” he told a parliamentary committee.

Blair, however, quoted Bush’s phrase that “you can’t take any option off the table”.

Iran on Tuesday blamed the U.S. military for the kidnapping of a senior Iranian diplomat in Baghdad by gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms.

The Bush administration has stepped up its rhetoric against Iran in recent weeks, prompting speculation it could be laying the groundwork for a military attack.

Washington is at loggerheads with Iran over its nuclear programme and accuses Tehran of funding and training militants fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said last week that Washington was not planning for war with Iran.

NOT PLANNING FOR WAR

Iran says its nuclear enrichment programme is aimed solely at electricity generation — not at making nuclear weapons, as the West alleges — and denies involvement in violence in Iraq.

Blair urged Iran to back a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a resolution in Lebanon and peace in Iraq.

“If they started offering some sign that they were prepared to deal differently with things, I think they would find that a whole series of doors would open up to them but at the moment they are not prepared to do that,” he said, giving no details.

Blair slammed as “ridiculous” the belief Britain had fuelled Muslim extremism by sending troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Muslim groups and politicians have urged Blair to change his foreign policy while left-leaning think-tank Demos said in December that his government’s actions bred resentment among British Muslims, causing some to sympathise with extremists.

Four Britons killed 52 people on London’s transport network in July 2005 in Western Europe’s first Islamist suicide bombings.

Blair said he did not think his government was losing the battle for hearts and minds over Iraq, but he did not believe it would win the battle “until we stop pandering … to a view of our foreign policy that I regard … as ridiculous.”

“The people that are killing innocent Muslims in Iraq and in Afghanistan are these Muslim extremists,” he said.

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