Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Straw Rejects Military Action Against Iran

Matthew Tempest, The Guardian:
Jack Straw today insisted that military action against Iran would be neither "appropriate or conceivable", as he unveiled the Foreign Office's priorities for the next 10 years. Speaking in London to a conference of Britain's 200 ambassadors, recalled from around the world for the two-day conference, the foreign secretary said there would be no "international consensus" for action on Iran, although there was growing agreement about Tehran's "intransigence". READ MORE

And, in a separate white paper, Mr Straw set out energy security, terrorism and illegal immigration as Foreign Office priorities for the next ten years.

Mr Straw's comments came two days before a meeting of foreign ministers in Germany to discuss the next steps to take against Iran.

Before the meeting went into private session, he told ambassadors and the press: "I have made clear often enough the fact that I do not regard military action as appropriate or conceivable, nor do I believe that there would be any international consensus for that."

But he warned that there were "anxieties" between countries, such as Russia and China, which have different interests in the Middle Eastern state.

In the white paper, entitled Active Diplomacy for a Changing World, Mr Straw underlined the concerns surrounding Britain's declining energy reserves and the "tensions" resulting from large-scale migration.

The paper also carries a new emphasis on consular support for British nationals in difficulty abroad, following the publication last week of the Foreign Office's consular guidance.

On energy, the paper notes that Britain now imports more gas than it exports - relying on supplies from Norway, Russia, Algeria and the Gulf - and would face the same situation with oil by 2010.

"Security of supply will become more important for the UK as we become dependent on importing energy from more distant, diverse and unstable regions," it said.

"As the UK relies increasingly on importing energy, we need to work internationally to support open and diversified energy markets that ensure long-term security of supply."

The paper acknowledged the economic and cultural benefits of managed migration, but said that illegal immigration undermined social cohesion and weakened public confidence in the rule of law.

"It can also provoke tensions in the places large numbers of migrants travel through or where they settle. Illegal immigration is often fostered by criminal networks, which exploit migrants," it said.

"International cooperation is central in tackling this issue. Those who have no right to remain in the UK must leave or face being removed. We expect other governments to take back their nationals who are illegally in the UK."

Other priorities, repeated from the last white paper in 2003 - which was the first time the FCO had ever put out a so-called 'mission statement' - include making the world safer from global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and promoting sustainable development and poverty reduction "underpinned by human rights, democracy, good governance and protection of the environment".

Mr Straw said the expertise of his department's staff in local areas, including Iran, was a key tool in finding progress through complex diplomatic territory.

He said: "Equally the negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme rely on expertise in technologically complex issues, a deep understanding of Iran and the region, and contacts and influence around the world to build what is now a growing international consensus in the face of Iran's intransigence.

"You cannot build expertise and experience overnight and you cannot get it off the internet either.

"We would not have achieved what we have in this and many other areas without a global, professional, diplomatic network. These professional skills bring real benefits to the British people."

The Tory foreign affairs spokesman, Keith Simpson, said the document showed Labour had "lurched from its 1997 'ethical foreign policy' to its 1999 'doctrine of humanitarian intervention' to arrive at 'active diplomacy' in 2006".