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Miliband warns Iran over nuclear ambitions

London Telegraph | July 9, 2007
Brendan Carlin

David Miliband, the new Foreign Secretary, indicated last night that Gordon Brown's Government would not shrink from confrontation with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Mr Miliband insisted the new Government would “not retreat from the world” in the wake of Tony Blair's departure but would be a “robust defender” of the national interest.

He also signalled Britain was preparing a tough response if Russia this week formally refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the man wanted by the UK authorities for the murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Jack Straw, one of Mr Miliband's predecessors as Foreign Secretary, once said that military action against Iran was “inconceivable”.

But in an interview with the Financial Times today, Mr Miliband refused to repeat the statement.

“I think that the whole of the international community wants a non-military, diplomatic solution to this problem,” he said.

“I don't think it does any good to speculate any wider than that.”

Instead, he warned Iran that the British government would keep up a tough stance on Tehran's nuclear ambitions, insisting the Iranian regime “doesn't have the right to set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East”.

In his first interview since becoming Foreign Secretary 10 days ago, Mr Miliband said Iran “has every right to be a secure rich country” - and the West was making a “very clear offer” that would allow Iran to develop the civil nuclear power it needed.

But in a clear sign Gordon Brown's new Government would not soften policy on Iran, Mr Miliband said that the Iranian regime “doesn't have the right to undermine the stability of its neighbours”.

The UK would press ahead with a third United Nations resolution that tightened sanctions, if necessary.

“We are ready to work with our partners on a third resolution. We think it's very, very important that the international community remains clear and united on this issue.”

He also said Britain had “not changed” policy on co-operating with the US over creating a missile defence shield - a proposal which has been met with protests from Russia.

On the Middle East, Mr Miliband indicated there should be no relaxation of demands that Hamas must recognise Israel's right to exist before there was full engagement with the international community.

He acknowledged Hamas had played “a crucial role” in the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who had been kidnapped and held in Gaza.


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