Britain’s foreign policy chief said Friday that Iran continues to pose the most serious threat to the world, warning that Tehran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons risks an arms race across the Middle East.
David Miliband said in a speech that the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program — which Tehran insists is aimed at developing a civilian energy program but which Western leaders say is an effort to make nuclear weapons — must be quickly resolved.
“In the next year, the most pressing threat to global order … comes from the actions of Iran,” said Miliband, Britain’s foreign secretary. “Its refusal to address the international community’s concerns about its pursuit of nuclear enrichment threatens to spark a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East.”
Miliband said that if Iran persists, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others could be forced to consider whether they also need nuclear weapons to defend their interests. Israel is widely considered to have nuclear arms but has a “no tell” policy on the issue.
Miliband said the world’s global powers should do more to pressure Iran to stop enriching uranium, adding: “This issue is not one for the long grass. It requires the world to use economic power to assert the need for order, to avoid having to use military power.”
Britain is among the six negotiators seeking to curb Iran’s apparent ambition to develop nuclear weapons. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and Germany are responsible for the talks.
Miliband, delivering a speech in northern England, said he hoped the coming year will bring about reform of the U.N. Security Council. He has called for permanent seats on the council for India, Japan, Brazil, Germany and an African representative.
Miliband said that despite a new U.S. National Intelligence Council assessment to the contrary, he expected the U.S. to be the world’s pre-eminent power throughout his lifetime. But he said the U.S. must in the future be prepared to share its power.
“The scale and nature of the challenges, and the shift in economic power eastwards means that the U.S. can no longer be expected to shoulder such a disproportionate burden. No problem can be solved without the U.S., but few can be solved by the U.S. alone,” he said.
Miliband praised China, saying the emerging power is using diplomacy, not muscle, to build its reputation.
“China, by all historical standards, is showing remarkable restraint in its external relations,” he said. “Through cooperation on climate change, financial instability, and development, China is using its external muscle in a 21st-century way, rather reverting to 19th-century methods of aggression.”