Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sanctions seen having little impact on Iran

Punitive sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions would likely prove ineffective and there is no military solution to the standoff, foreign office minister Kim Howells said on Wednesday. READ MORE

Howells said the best and perhaps sole route to a breakthrough was to press on with diplomatic efforts to make Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "see sense" and bow to pressure to halt his nuclear programme.

Tehran probably had the resources to endure United Nations sanctions, Howells said.

"I can't see a military way through this and I'm not sure that even there's an easy way for the U.N. to impose sanctions," he told parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee.

"It's a very diverse country and I've no doubt it could survive for a very long time and continue doing what it's doing," he added.

The United States, Iran's arch-adversary, is spearheading efforts to draw up punitive U.N. sanctions against Tehran over suspicions it is secretly trying to build atom bombs.

Iran argues its nuclear programme is purely for peaceful purposes.

Howells said he was "very pessimistic" about Iran's nuclear enrichment programme.

"We don't know how far they are from actually designing a bomb but I feel very pessimistic about that. What we do know is they are also working on delivery systems, on long-range missiles, and that's a very worrying combination."

"I think that's why we have to redouble our efforts to make President Ahmadinejad to see sense," Howells added.

The European Union is set to resume talks with Iran over its nuclear work on Thursday, officials said on Wednesday.