UPI U.K. Correspondent
London (UPI) Mar 29, 2006
Military action against Iran is neither appropriate nor conceivable, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted Tuesday. Speaking in London as he launched a Foreign Office white paper outlining Britain's international strategy for the coming decade, Straw moved to allay fears that the current stand-off would lead to "another Iraq."
Despite the failure of the United Nations Security Council to reach any agreement on how to deal with Iran's nuclear programs at last week's meeting, the foreign secretary maintained that there was a "growing international consensus in the face of Iran's intransigence."
Straw acknowledged that it would be "hard-going" to secure the backing of all Security Council members for a resolution against Iran. However, he hoped it would be possible to agree "the next step" when the five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- and Germany met in Berlin Thursday, he said.
Countries had "different interests" in Iran, he continued, alluding to Russia's $1 billion contract to build Iran's first atomic reactor at Bushehr and China's heavy reliance on Iranian oil exports for its energy supplies.
Both countries have so far rejected punitive action against the Islamic Republic, fearing that sanctions, economic or otherwise, could harm such interests.
Straw said there were also "anxieties, which we have to acknowledge, as to whether the strategy which the European Three are following with the backing of the United States is going to lead to the possibility of "another Iraq."
"So that's why it takes time."
But, he insisted: "As to the possibility of this being 'another Iraq,' it won't.
"I don't regard military action as appropriate or indeed conceivable."
However, there appears to be a split within the British government over the efficacy of retaining the threat of military force.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Feb. 7 he could not rule out the possibility of taking military action against Iran over its nuclear programs.
During questioning by a committee of senior parliamentarians, Blair said that while military action was "not on the agenda," he could "never say never."
Senior Foreign Office officials also appear keen to preserve the military option. A government memo reported by the Times of London last week suggested that Britain was pressing for a U.N. resolution that would pave the way for sanctions or possible force against Iran should it fail to halt its nuclear program.
The letter detailed a strategy to persuade Russia and China to back a Chapter VII resolution that would require the United Nations to act should Tehran refuse to comply.
Despite the insistence of the foreign secretary just three days earlier that military action was "inconceivable," the letter, written by Foreign Office Political Director John Sawyers on March 16, recommended "more serious measures."
"(The Iranians) will need to know that more serious measures are likely," Sawyers wrote to his U.S., German and French counterparts. "This means putting the Iran dossier on to a Chapter VII basis."
He suggested making a suspension of all uranium enrichment by Tehran "a mandatory requirement of the Security Council, in a resolution we would aim to adopt, I say, early May."
Sawyers, who served as Britain's envoy to Iraq following the 2003 invasion, recommended a dual strategy in order to persuade Russia and China to sign up to the resolution.
"We are not going to bring the Russians and Chinese to accept significant sanctions over the coming months, certainly not without further efforts to bring the Iranians around," he wrote.
"In parallel with agreeing a new proposal, we will also want to bind Russia and China into agreeing to further measures that will be taken by the Security Council should the Iranians fail to engage positively."
In light of such reports, Moscow and Beijing will be wary that British assurances that military action is not on the agenda are simply aimed at persuading them to sign up to a strongly-worded resolution.
The United States has been unwilling to rule out the possibility of using force against Iran. While President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have insisted that they favor the diplomatic route to convince Iran to halt its nuclear programs, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has made clear he regards force as a serious option.
The following day, Bolton reportedly told a committee of British parliamentarians that Iran's nuclear program could be brought to a halt with carefully-targeted military strikes. "We can hit different points along the line," the envoy said, according to committee members present. "You only have to take out one part of their nuclear operation to take the whole thing down."
Tehran has threatened to retaliate should the United States choose to follow a military path against it.
He insisted Iran was being open about its nuclear activities but suggested that could change should it be threatened with military force. "Any threat or potential threat will create a very complicated situation," said Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Sam Gardiner, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and military strategy expert, told the same conference that Washington did not believe the Security Council would agree on a way forward, and was likely to make a "serious decision" on the military option before the November elections.
Any operation would take less than five days and probably involve Stealth bombers, he said, before adding that his analysis had led him to conclude it would not be successful.
Whether Britain would support such an operation is as yet unclear, where there is little enthusiasm for another military intervention in the Middle East and, following the Iraq debacle, a serious lack of trust in British and U.S. intelligence.
For now, the government appears to be performing a diplomatic balancing act, attempting to dispel fears of a rush to war while simultaneously preparing for it.
Source: United Press International
Flurry of UN Activity Amid Signs Of Progress On Iran Statement
United Nations (AFP) Mar 29, 2006
Key members of the UN Security Council on Tuesday reported some progress in efforts to agree a statement urging Iran to come clean on its nuclear program. Envoys of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States held three rounds of informal talks and were to meet again later in the afternoon.
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