Thursday, May 25, 2006

Blair Says Not "Targeting Iran"

Britain, which will soon have about 13,000 soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, does not want to add to its burden by starting a conflict with Iran, Prime Minister Tony Blair has said. "We don't want a conflict with Iran, we have got enough on our plate doing other things," Blair said in an interview with Al Jazeera Television, the transcript of which was distributed by Blair's office on Thursday. READ MORE

The United States and some Western nations believe the Islamic Republic intends to develop an atomic bomb although Iran, the world's fourth biggest oil producer, says it needs nuclear technology to meet its booming energy demand.

Washington says it wants to resolve the crisis diplomatically but has not ruled out military action while Britain, President George W. Bush's main ally in 2003's U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, says there is no intention to strike.

Blair insisted, however, that Iran comply with international demands to stop its sensitive nuclear work.

"If Iran goes out of its way... to breach its international obligations, of course the international community through the U.N. Security Council has got to take up the issue," he said in the interview.

Bush and Blair have seen their popularity dive as a result of the Iraq war and its violent aftermath and there are worries in Britain that the army is being stretched.

"Nobody is targeting Iran," Blair said. "People are simply worried because they appear to be in breach of their nuclear obligations and because they are supporting terrorism around the Middle East."

He said Tehran was making a mistake in thinking the United States and its allies were "out to get Iran".

"We are not, we just want them to stop supporting terrorism and to stop meddling in the affairs of a country that is now governed under a U.N. process and with a multinational force that is there with U.N. support."

Britain has accused Iran of supporting insurgents in Iraq, especially in the south where most British soldiers are based.

Tehran denies the charge and has, in turn, accused London of using its presence in Iraq to stir up ethnic unrest in southeastern Iran.