Monday, May 08, 2006

Blair rules out Iran invasion

Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday ruled out an invasion of Iran and said any suggestion of a nuclear strike on the country was "absolutely absurd". READ MORE

Iran has been referred to the U.N. Security Council over fears it is building nuclear arms, a charge Iran denies. Washington says it would prefer a diplomatic solution to the crisis but warns sanctions and military strikes are options.

"I don't know anybody who has even talked or contemplated the prospect of a nuclear strike on Iran. That would be absolutely absurd," Blair told a regular monthly news conference.

There has been widespread media speculation that differences over how to deal with Iran's nuclear programme were behind Blair's decision to axe Foreign Minister Jack Straw last week in a major government reshuffle.

Blair replaced Straw with former Environment Minister Margaret Beckett.

"The idea I moved Jack because of Iran ... because the Americans objected to him ... (is) rubbish," Blair said.

"Any notion that it is linked to a decision about invading Iran -- which incidentally we are not going to do -- any notion that it is linked to such a decision is utterly absurd."

The prime minister said Britain's foreign policy under Beckett, who has earned an international profile in climate change talks, would not shift direction.

"I chose Margaret because she is an outstanding politician and a very, very safe pair of hands," said Blair. "I have absolutely no doubt that the foreign policy that was articulated by Jack will not change one iota under Margaret."