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Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 27 June 2006

I discuss Iran frequently with Dr. Rice. When we met in Vienna on 1 June, we agreed an imaginative set of proposals with our French, German, Russian and Chinese counterparts and Javier Solana. These offer Iran a way forward to resolve international concerns over its nuclear activities while enabling it, if it chooses, to develop a modern civil nuclear power programme. In making those proposals, we have again shown flexibility and commitment to a diplomatic solution.

Iran faces a clear choice. I hope that it will take the positive path being extended, and I look forward to an early response.

I notice that the Foreign Secretary did not touch on the question of external resistance to the Iranian regime. Some time ago, the Americans gave protected persons status to the Mujaheddin of Iran in Camp Ashraf. Later, the German courts reconfirmed the rights of political asylum for Iranian refugees, whose status had previously been suspended. Only 11 days ago, the French lifted all restrictions on the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Is it not now time to urge the Home Office to take positive steps to improve relations with the Iranian resistance movement, both for their sake and in our national interest?

I am confident that the Home Office keeps those issues under review. I will, of course, draw the hon. Gentleman’s observations to its attention. Our chief concern at present is with the present Government of Iran and the considerable desire of the international community to introduce successful negotiations with them to restore confidence in their intentions.

What assessment has the Foreign Secretary made of the level of support in Iran for nuclear power or nuclear weapons? What sympathy is given to public opinion in Iran, the articulation of which seems to provide the President with his mandate?

It is a little hard to analyse that from outside Iran. There appears to be a good measure of popular support for the Iranian Government’s assertions about their rights, which are understood. Obviously, there is a desire in Iran for access to civil nuclear power, and those of us dealing with the issue internationally believe very strongly that that is a clear possibility if the country abides by the proposals that we have set out. We hope that that will convince the Iranian Government that entering negotiations is in their interest as well the wider international community’s.

The rather uncomfortable implication of the Foreign Secretary’s words is that Iran faces a fundamental choice between peace and conflict. Will the right hon. Lady make it clear that the situation is not as stark as that, and that a policy of diplomatic engagement will continue to be followed by the UK and the powers referred to in her answer to the original question?

It would be understandable if the hon. Gentleman had not had an opportunity to study the exact words that we used in Vienna. The statement then was made on a united basis, by all participants. Our clear offer to Iran was that we were prepared to resume negotiations if it resumed the suspension of enrichment. However, if Iran does not feel able to do that, the action being considered in the Security Council is something that we would have to consider resuming.

I was part of the recent Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation to Iran. Everybody whom we met made it very clear that the MEK, to which the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) referred, is widely regarded as a terrorist group that was funded by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. They said that, if we wanted a productive dialogue with Iran about its nuclear policy, the last thing that we, the Americans or any other EU member state should do is suggest that the terrorists in the MEK should be rehabilitated.

My hon. Friend makes a very interesting point, based on her recent experience in Iran. As I told the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley), the international community’s overriding priority is with the present Government of Iran. We believe that our proposals are very fair and very much to the advantage of Iran’s Government and people. We hope that the proposals will be considered speedily and fully.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the UN announcement of 6 June was remarkable for its unanimity, especially given that it included China and Russia? Has she had any indication, either from her colleagues in the US Administration or from Tehran, that the proposals are receiving positive approval? They are comprehensive and complex, so should we not give Iran time to respond? If it makes a concrete response, would not that be a positive sign that we could move away from confrontation? That would benefit the whole world, but especially the people of Iran.

The hon. Gentleman is right that the proposals are both comprehensive and complex, but that is why we are suggesting negotiation. Concern would arise if it appeared that we were entering into a period of negotiation about negotiations. I am sure that he will know that the indications made to us, publicly as well as privately, by the Iranian Government are that they see ambiguities in the proposals. We are keen to ensure that any ambiguities are resolved. We continue to press the Iranian Government for a further meeting between Javier Solana and colleagues, and Larijani. I hope that such a meeting will take place in the near future.