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In nobody's interests to have showdown with Iran, warns UK

London, Sept 16, IRNA -- The British government has rejected reports that the US and Israel are pushing for a showdown with Iran by pressing for a deadline of October 31 over the country's claimed non-compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"Those who are serious judges of what is happening would come to the conclusion that it is in nobody's interests to have a showdown over this issue, which is immensely serious," said Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, Baroness Symons.

The minister expressed her warning during a brief debate in the House of Lords Wednesday regarding the current discussions being held by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran's nuclear programme.

She expressed caution about US attempts to present Iran with an ultimatum, saying that the British government "cannot be in the business of setting artificial deadlines."

"We need to be clear that the Iranians have not repudiated the agreement," Symons said when asked if it would be a mistake to rush into a deadline on halting Iran's enrichment uranium procedures.

She also repudiated a claim that Britain's policy of engagement with Iran had led to only deceptions and broken promises, which was made by Labour peer Lord Corbett, who chairs the so-called British Committee for Iran Freedom, a front group for MKO terrorists.

"I cannot agree that the policy of constructive dialogue has resulted in what my noble lord describes as lies," the minister said.

"It is right for us to go through these discussions in Vienna and see what comes out of them before we take a decision about the appropriate moment, should such a moment arise, to refer the matter to the United Nations," she added.

The minister was also asked whether she agreed with former chief UN inspector in Iraq, Hans Blix, that the best way forward to deal with the Iran issue was to press for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, to include Israel's illegal capability.

"It is indeed the policy of the United Kingdom to press for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East," she confirmed, while pointing out that unlike Iran, Israel was not a signatory to the NPT.

Symons also warned that while Iran is in focus at the moment, the British government "does not wish to demonstrate to those countries that signing up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has some serious downsides, if we can avoid doing that."

"A great deal of delicacy is needed in approaching what is going on. We are going to have a serious problem if we do not resolve these issues in the way in which we have set our hand," she said, referring to moves to be taken also against those outside the NPT.

Questioned whether it was a "little odd" that the US seemed to be talking to North Korea but not to Iran, the minister for the Middle East confirmed that it was "certainly no secret" that US policy was different from the UK.

She said that there were "undoubted security concerns regarding Iran which have to be addressed" and agreed with former UK ambassador to the UN, Lord Hannay, that "carrots" were needed as well as sticks in dealing with the problem.

"The fact is, opportunities are open to Iran, such as trade and cooperation agreement, if it is able to satisfy us all - not only those in the IAEA, but those in the European Union - about the NPT," Symmons said.

... Payvand News - 9/16/04 ... --

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