Britain Rules Out Strikes On Iran
London (UPI) Apr 27, 2005
Britain said Wednesday it will not support any U.S. military action against Iran, signaling London preferred to diplomatically deal with Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program.
Speaking at a conference on post-election British foreign policy at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Baroness Elizabeth Symons, minister for the Middle East in Prime Minister Tony Blair's Cabinet, denied the United States had a "project" of military action against Iran but that "absolutely, if there were, no we would not support them."
It is the first time a British minister has made such a categorical statement. Although Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw have made clear they will use diplomacy to tackle Iran's nuclear program, they have failed to entirely rule out military action should talks break down.
Britain, France and Germany are trying to persuade Iran to give up its uranium-enrichment program in exchange for a slew of economic and political incentives.
Uranium enrichment can be used both for peaceful purposes and to make nuclear weapons. The United States says Iran is secretly making atomic bombs while Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Although Symons insisted she did not believe that strikes were "something that the Americans have on the stocks," Liberal Democrats Defense Spokesman Lord Timothy Garden said recent events indicated otherwise.
Air Marshal Garden, formerly assistant chief of defense staff and now an adviser to the Defense Ministry, said the proposed U.S. sale of 100 bunker-busting bombs to Israel suggested "that a strike is back in somebody's thoughts in Washington."
The Pentagon notified Congress Tuesday of its proposal to sell Israel the Lockheed Martin Corp. GBU-28s.
The sale, worth as much as $30 million, had been requested by Israel, the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a notice required by law for government-to-government military sales.
According to the agency, the GBU-28 was developed for penetrating hardened command centers located deep underground and would be used by the Israeli Air Force on their F-15 aircraft. Most of Iran's nuclear facilities are believed to e deep underground.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has denied any military attack on Iran is being planned, but U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney hinted action could come from the Jewish state when he warned in January an Israeli pre-emptive strike could not be ruled out.
Garden said such an "insane project" would not be militarily effective in terms of stopping nuclear development in Iran and would merely cause another broken state.
He suggested Europe might join together and tell the United States "we will not put up with another attack on another Middle Eastern state when we still haven't repaired the ones we attacked earlier."
He was referring to the war in Iraq, which his Liberal-Democrats have staunchly opposed from the start.
In terms of international law, military action could not be taken against Iran on the basis of suspicion, Garden noted.
"But the real question is, from a military practical point of view, do you end up better off or worse off by going and zapping the country?" he asked.
"My view is, the probability is you are very much worse off."
The world had managed with other states that had turned nuclear, notably Israel, said Garden, adding the Israeli arsenal was part of the reason for Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Israel, however, maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying it has such weapons though most intelligence estimates say it does.
"Zapping is not the answer to the world's problems," Garden said. The international community should continue to use both sanctions and benefits, and "if in the end they (Iran) go nuclear we manage it as we have done with other nations."
Symons, however, noted it was not just Iran's development of technology but intentions that were causing concern.
"I would just say to our friends in Tehran that if they continue to have missiles parading in the streets of Tehran with 'Death to Israel' written on the sides of them, that is a real antidote to anybody being prepared to believe that they really have got peaceful intentions over their development of nuclear power.
"There's a lot more to this than just the nuclear question, it is a question of your intentions and what you are prepared to do about living peaceably in the region."
Britain, France and Germany, the so-called EU-3, have made clear in their negotiations with Tehran that the Islamic Republic must prove its intentions are peaceful, which Iran insists they are.
It is unclear how far along, if at all, Iran is in its weapons program, but Britain has expressed concern over certain parts of the nuclear program, which indicate military intentions.
A senior Foreign Office official said in February the EU-3 believed Iran was continuing research on heavy water reactors, which produce byproducts that lead to a military program.
"There is no reason for Iran to continue its heavy water research unless it is aiming for a military nuclear program," he said.
Uranium enrichment and the extent of experimentation with centrifuges, polonium and plutonium separation were also worrying, he said.
But despite such concerns Britain is committed to continuing negotiations, which, the official said, could go on "for years."
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No Green Light To Israel For Strikes On Alleged Iran Nuke Sites: Rice
Washington (AFP) Mar 13, 2005
US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on Sunday said Washington has not backed a military strike by Israel against suspected Iranian nuclear sites, contrary to press reports.
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