Friday, March 10, 2006

Straw: Iran Must Clarify Nuclear Intentions

Foreign & Commonwealth Office:
Edited transcript of an interview by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, with channel 4 news on Thursday 9 March 2006. READ MORE

INTERVIEWER: Let's pick up on one of the key things with which this week began. A clear statement from the Americans that they have hard evidence that technology's being transported from Iran in to Southern Iraq and being used against the, the Coalition forces there. Is there anything firm in that evidence that you've seen or heard?

FOREIGN SECRETARY: I'm not clear what precise evidence the Americans had in mind when they said that. We've made clear ourselves in the past (indistinct) two or three months ago that we had reason to believe that some of the improvised explosive devices used against British troops and other targets in Southern Iraq were of a Hezbollah design which originated from Iran. I mean that's the evidence we have.

INTERVIEWER: You can see the problem, a lot of people will be having a sense of déjà vu, the dodgy dossier, the run up to Iraq, WMD and so forth. And they will say cynically, realistically, we don't know, here we go again.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:...I mean I certainly can see that problem. And it's precisely because I recognise that there's a high level of scepticism about any claims that anybody in the international community but not least the Americans and the British make about Iran, given the problem we had over Iraq, that I've been very, very careful indeed to ensure that any claims that I have made have been fully justified by publicly available material and, and principally that of the reports of Doctor ElBaradei to the IAEA board of governors.

INTERVIEWER: Now hints today coming really from, from the Foreign Office as well as elsewhere, that there is the, real grounds for concern that the Iranians backed in to some sort of corner might in some way mount some kind of attack, a terrorist type attack on Britain. Is that in any way realistic or is that...

FOREIGN SECRETARY: No I mean and let me say that, that the briefing that was given by officials did not say there was going to be a terrorist attack on Britain. I don't believe (indistinct) ...

INTERVIEWER: No it said there was concern, real concern.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:...look, what there is concern about and this know, a matter of fact as well, is that Iran, the (indistinct) the regime in Iran has had a long history since the revolution of backing a series of terrorist groups and notably Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, Hamas in the Occupied Territories, both of which (indistinct) have operated against Israel, and some groups more recently in Iraq. There's no question about that. And they have this very equivocal view about terrorism. On the one hand they demand from the West and from people like myself that we should ban a terrorist organisation called MEK operating against the Iranian people, and indeed when I was Home Secretary did indeed ban that organisation. On the other hand they say but ah, killing of Jews is all right, what Hamas and Hezbollah do is okay. And if there's collateral damage from those organisations that's in the cause of freedom fighting, it's not something that we accept but ...

INTERVIEWER: Well equally they talk, equally they talk about double standards on the nuclear issue. They say you're getting at us over our nuclear plans whatever they may be, at the same time when it comes to Israel it's double standards...they have a point.

FOREIGN SECRETARY: ...they do say that and let me, let me deal with this straight out. First of all Iran is a member of the Non Proliferation Treaty and it's entered in to very clear obligations which at the moment they're failing to meet and that's not a matter of speculation or intelligence, it's a matter of fact. Israel, Pakistan and India are the three key countries who refuse to sign up to the Non Proliferation Treaty. Now we want them to sign up to it, we wish them to go non nuclear, but they can not be accused directly of breaching obligations because they've not entered in to those.

The second thing is that people say they want a nuclear free Middle East. I want a nuclear free Middle East. It's the policy of Her Majesty's Government. We've been working to achieve that. We have ensured over the last few years that two of the four countries which posed a nuclear threat, Libya and Iraq, have had their nuclear weapons removed, in the case of Iraq by the history that people know, in the case of Libya as a result of sanctions, pressure and then negotiation... and so that leaves the potential threat, we believe, from Iran and Israel. And if you want to see a nuclear free Middle East you've got to remove that threat from Iran, including the rhetorical threat to wipe Israel off the face of the map...and once you've done that then we can get on to work at, in respect of Israel.

INTERVIEWER: okay let's move on briefly. Condoleezza Rice saying today that Iran constitutes the number one threat as she put it to the United States. It can not be a desirable situation where the world's über power, the world's only super power is saying something like that on the one hand about a country with which it's got no one on the ground diplomatically at all and hasn't had for a long time.

FOREIGN SECRETARY: Well I think the Americans (indistinct) recognise that and one of the ironies of this situation is that both the, the Americans and the Iranians in a sense (indistinct) could do with each other. The, the Iranians are desperate to see normalisation of relationships with the Americans, they need American technology, also they need American education for many of their young people. And at the same time America needs to resolve this twenty five year old long running dispute that it's had with the Iranian regime.

But it's precisely because America has not had diplomatic relations, one of the reasons, that it has made use of the so called E3 configuration of Germany, France and the United Kingdom (indistinct) to spearhead the negotiations that we have in turn led internationally.

And can I just say this about the rhetoric, I was (indistinct), inevitable given the fact the matter has now been referred to the Security Council that some of the rhetoric has been raised. But first of all let me make it clear we in the international community defend Iran's right to peaceful nuclear power. That is not the issue. The issue is that they have got to bring themselves in to compliance with obligations they have voluntarily entered in to...and until they clarify their intentions we do not believe it is safe for them to have full access to the nuclear cycle. That's a very different and separate issue from what the Iranians say, which is we're trying to deny them nuclear electrical power but (indistinct) not.