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Iran (Missile Development)

Volume 488: debated on Monday 23 February 2009

5. What assessment he has made of the implications for UK defence policy of recent Iranian missile development. (257884)

We routinely assess the military capabilities of other nations’ armed forces, including those of Iran. Iran is attempting to improve its ballistic missile capabilities; we continue to monitor these developments very carefully indeed.

I thank the Secretary of State for his reply, but how worried are the Government about the potential supply of Fajr-2 missiles from Iran to Hamas and what would be the implications for regional security, including the safety of our own troops?

Iran should stop meddling in the affairs of the middle east. That is what it should do. The supply of armaments to Hamas in Gaza is profoundly unwelcome and must stop. We have made an offer to try to help the interdiction of those missile supplies and we stand ready to do that. We have no information to suggest that the capabilities that the Iranians are seeking to acquire pose a threat to UK forces, but Iran’s growing interest in developing ballistic missile technology goes far beyond what is and can ever be justified in terms of Iranian self-defence, so we are entitled, along with our allies, to keep a very close eye on the continuing malign influence that Iran is playing in the middle east.

What attempts have the Government made to speak with Iran about the possibility of its signing, or at least seeing the value of, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?

We should certainly continue to discuss those matters with Iran. It is quite clear that Iran is continuing to take steps to seek to acquire a nuclear weapons programme. We must do everything we possibly can, with our international allies, to ensure that that never happens.

What assessment has the Secretary of State made of possible Russian involvement in arming Iran, in particular the stories that the Russians might be providing the Iranians with anti-missile missiles?

We do have concerns about the suggestion that Russian ground-to-air missiles might be provided to the Iranians. As part of trying to secure the defence of Iranian nuclear installations, that would certainly be a very unwelcome development. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we have had discussions with Russia about those matters, and continue to do so.

Within the last few days, it has been revealed by the British ambassador to the United Nations that in 2005 the Iranians offered the British a deal whereby they said:

“We stop killing you in Iraq…you allow us to carry on with our”

missile and

“nuclear programme.”

That deal was rightly rejected. This is, I believe, the first time that a senior British official has spoken about an Iranian admission of direct involvement in killing British service personnel. Will the Secretary of State confirm that that is also his understanding of that situation?

I do not think that there is any doubt that, in recent years, the Iranians have been assisting various groups in Iraq to attack British forces. That is totally unacceptable. Iran should keep its nose out of Iraq and other countries. Iran has a legitimate set of interests in the middle east, but it has no right whatever to involve itself in the internal security situation of other countries. Its role in assisting those groups to kill British forces is one that we will never forget.