Britain: Military Action Not Discussed

Published January 13, 2006

| Associated Press

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Friday that Iran could face U.N. sanctions for resuming its nuclear activities, but the U.S. and Britain haven't discussed military action.

In an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio, Straw said, "Obviously, if Iran failed to comply, the Security Council would then consider sanctions."

Asked about the possibility of an attack on Iran, he said, "I promise you I've never had a single discussion with anybody in the American administration about even the possibility of military action."

"This can only be resolved by peaceful means. Nobody is talking about invading Iran or taking military action," he added.

Straw's comments came a day after France, Britain and Germany, backed by the United States, said that nuclear talks with Iran had reached a dead end after more than two years of acrimonious negotiations and the issue should be referred to the Security Council.

However, they refrained from calling on the 15-nation council to impose sanctions and said they remained open to more talks.

Iran responded Friday by threatening to block inspections of its nuclear sites if confronted by the U.N. Security Council and reaffirmed its intention to produce nuclear energy.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity, but the U.S. and others accuse it of seeking to develop atomic weapons.

Straw said he had "strong suspicion" that Iran wanted to build a nuclear bomb but stressed there was no categorical evidence to prove that. "To quote the White House `Iran is not Iraq,"' Straw said.

The foreign secretary said Thursday that it was "highly probable" that Iran will be referred to the U.N. Security Council because of its nuclear program.

On Tuesday, Iran removed some U.N. seals in the presence of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from its main uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, central Iran, and resumed what it said was "merely research" on nuclear fuel.

During his BBC interview, Straw urged the international community to take a diplomatic approach to ending the nuclear stand off with Iran.

"Our approach is firm, but it has also got to be a sensible, patient approach which ensures that there is a continuation of the very substantial international consensus which we have built up," he said.

For example, he said, Syria had been successfully pressured to meet U.N. resolution obligations without sanctions.

Key to efforts to take action against Iran are Russia and China, traditional allies with Tehran who hold veto power in the Security Council and could thwart efforts to punish the Islamic republic.

The Security Council could ratchet up the pressure gradually, starting with a condemnation of the country and demanding that Iran comply with IAEA decisions.

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