Miliband gives Iran nuclear warning
James Blitz, Daniel Dombey and Philip Stephens – FT.com July 9, 2007
David Miliband, foreign secretary, has warned Iran that the UK government will maintain a tough stance on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, insisting that the Iranian regime “doesn’t have the right to set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East”.
In his first interveiw since becoming foreign secretary 10 days ago, Mr Miliband told the Financial Times that Iran “has every right to be a secure rich country” – and the west was making a “very clear offer” that would allow Iran to develop the civil nuclear power it needed.
But in the first sign that Gordon Brown’s new government will not soften Britain’s policy on Iran, Mr Miliband said the Iranian regime “doesn’t have the right to undermine the stability of its neighbours” – and the UK would press ahead with a third United Nations resolution that tightened sanctions, if necessary.
“We are ready to work with our partners on a third resolution. We think it’s very, very important that the international community remains clear and united on this issue.”
Although Jack Straw, one of Mr Miliband’s predecessors, said two years ago that military action against Iran was “inconceivable”, Mr Miliband repeatedly refused to repeat this statement in the interview.
“I think that the whole of the international community wants a non-military, diplomatic solution to this problem,” he said. “I don’t think it does any good to speculate any wider than that.”
His central message was that the British government would “not retreat from the world” after Tony Blair’s departure. However, Mr Miliband made clear the Brown administration would also be “a robust defender of our national interest”.
He signalled that the UK was preparing a tough response to Russia if Moscow this week formalised its refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, wanted by the UK authorities for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB agent.
He also said Britain had “not changed” policy on co-operating with the US over creating a missile defence shield.
On the Middle East, Mr Miliband indicated that there should be no relaxation of demands that Hamas must recognise Israel’s right to exist before there was full engagement with the international community.
Last week, Mr Miliband acknowledged that Hamas had played “a crucial role” in the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston. But he said demands on Hamas set by the Quartet – the US, UN, European Union and Russia – “set a basic benchmark for being an engaged player”. “The first part of the bedrock of our approach is a commitment to a two-state solution.”
On Hamas’s refusal to recognise Israel, Mr Miliband said: “To suddenly say that there’s flexibility about one of the two states [Israel] having been there at all I think is not a sensible way of proceeding.”
Last updated 12/07/2007