Daily Telegraph: Britain ruled out military action to halt Iran’s nuclear programme yesterday on the eve of a diplomatic battle by the West to take Teheran to the United Nations Security Council for possible political and economic sanctions. Daily Telegraph
By Anton La Guardia, Diplomatic Editor
Britain ruled out military action to halt Iran’s nuclear programme yesterday on the eve of a diplomatic battle by the West to take Teheran to the United Nations Security Council for possible political and economic sanctions.
As hostile rhetoric between the West and Iran intensified, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, sought to allay fears that the dispute would ultimately lead to war.
He said that an intransigent speech at the UN a day earlier by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been “disappointing and unhelpful”. But Mr Straw played down the prospect that referring Iran to the Security Council for failing fully to disclose its nuclear activities would lead to an Iraq-style escalation ending in war.
“This will not be resolved by military means, let’s be clear about that,” Mr Straw told the BBC. “It needs to be resolved by all facilities available to the international community.”
America and European countries fear that Teheran’s attempt to make its own uranium-enriched fuel masks a secret project to make fissile material for atomic bombs.
The United States has thrown its weight behind efforts by Britain, France and Germany to find a diplomatic solution, but has left open the option of bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Iran had promised to freeze the most sensitive parts of its nuclear programme – uranium enrichment and plutonium separation. But in a calculated challenge to the West, Iran last month restarted work at a factory to make uranium hexafluoride, a key step in the enrichment of uranium for fuel or bombs.
Iran had promised to unveil new compromise proposals during Mr Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN general assembly on Saturday. Instead, much of his address was a stream of invective against the injustices perpetrated by America and other Western countries, lambasting their “nuclear apartheid” on nuclear technology.
He made it clear that Iran would not give up on uranium enrichment and in perhaps his most threatening comments, said: “If some try to impose their will on the Iranian people through a language of force and threat, we will reconsider our entire approach to the nuclear issue.”
This is a thinly-veiled hint that Iran could end co-operation with international nuclear inspectors, resume all aspects of uranium enrichment or ultimately withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Mr Straw said Iran’s insistence that it only seeks to nuclear energy to generate electricity “does not add up” with evidence of deception found by the International Atomic Energy Agency and “what we think has not been disclosed”.
The French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said of Mr Ahmadinejad’s speech: “What I heard makes me say the option of referral… to the Security Council remains on the agenda.”
European officials are worried they will not have enough support at the IAEA for such action, but were hoping that Mr Ahmadinejad’s uncompromising language had strengthened their case.