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. Britain certain Iran developing long-range weapons
LONDON (AFP) Nov 29, 2005
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Tuesday it was an "incontrovertible" fact that Iran was developing long-range missiles.

But he stopped short of asserting that Tehran was using its fledgling nuclear programme -- currently under intense scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- to develop nuclear weapons.

Questioned in the British parliament's lower House of Commons, Straw was asked what plans were in place to deal with the "doomsday situation" of Iranian weapons being developed capable of reaching England's south coast.

He replied: "The fact that the government of Iran are developing longer range missiles is incontrovertible. Whether they are using their nuclear power programme to develop nuclear weapons is not yet incontrovertible.

"There is a lot of circumstantial evidence which has raised significant anxieties in the minds of the international community."

Straw said he believed Iran was "at the very least developing options for a nuclear weapons programme" but stated the current approach to control this was favoured.

Iran could face UN Security Council sanctions over its nuclear programme, which the United States and other nations suspect is a front for developing a weapons capability, and therefore non-compliant with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Relations with the European Union, the United States and other Western countries have been further strained since hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called in October for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

Straw's comments came after Tehran rejected a compromise plan to allow Russia to conduct uranium enrichment -- a process which can make both nuclear fuel and the explosive core of a weapon -- on their behalf.

Iran's nuclear negotiator, Javad Vaidi, said Tuesday they will only accept a plan to make nuclear fuel inside the country and would not continue talks about the programme with the threat of UN sanctions hanging over them.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair Tuesday announced a sweeping review of Britain's energy needs to explore the feasibility of building new nuclear power stations.

Blair -- who is reportedly in favour of resurrecting Britain's nuclear energy programme -- gave his strongest hint yet that a combination of nuclear and renewable sources could be the answer to a predicted future energy gap.

David Hamilton -- a member of parliament from Blair's ruling Labour Party -- asked Straw: "What gives us the right to tell whether we can expand our nuclear energy and, at the same time, tell other countries they can't have it?"

Straw said the suggestion was a "popular misconception", explaining Iran was entitled to develop nuclear power but not use the technology to develop nuclear weapons.

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