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Middle East (Nuclear Proliferation)

Volume 501: debated on Tuesday 1 December 2009

8. What recent assessment he has made of the levels of nuclear proliferation in the middle east; and if he will make a statement. (302601)

The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran remains the most immediate proliferation threat to the middle east. Iran needs to co-operate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency and comply with five United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for it to suspend its enrichment programme.

Iran’s announcement that it intends to build another 10 uranium enrichment plants may or may not be mere posturing, but in any event, it amounts to provocative defiance of the will of the international community, as expressed in the IAEA resolution. At what point does the Minister consider that economic sanctions against Iran will become inevitable?

First, we should not be distracted by the announcement made this week. The issue is that after six years of engagement and five UN Security Council resolutions Iran has still refused to comply with its responsibilities under international law. What has been agreed by the international community is that there will be a meeting of officials of the E3 plus 3 this month, an assessment will be made of the engagement strategy so far, and at that time an appropriate judgment will be made about the next stage. What is clear is that the international community will not tolerate Iran developing nuclear weapons. Not only is that a threat to the stability of the middle east, but it would also trigger an arms race in that region, which would have no limit.

But what representations has my hon. Friend made to the newly appointed European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to ensure that, as is crucial, a single voice comes out of the European Union against the Iranian uranium enrichment policy?

My hon. Friend is right to make the point that we need the EU speaking with one clear, loud voice and making it clear to Iran that we stand together on this issue. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will meet the new High Representative this week to that end.

The IAEA director general has said:

“We have effectively reached a dead end”

on Iran. Given that, does the Minister agree that we need to be talking about a new UN Security Council resolution, which should include a total ban on arms sales to Iran, a tough UN inspections regime and action against the Iranian Islamic revolutionary guard corps, which is deeply involved in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes?

What is important is that it is absolutely clear that despite the international community’s reaching out a hand towards Iran, requesting diplomatic engagement and saying that we want a political solution, and despite the speech in which the new President of the United States made those points, Iran has still refused to engage: for more than a year, it has not engaged with the UN’s nuclear watchdog in any way. If, at this stage of reappraisal, the best way forward is found to be a United Nations resolution about further sanctions against Iran, we will take that view seriously.

It is clear that Iran has not listened to anything that anybody has said for the past six years and is proceeding irrespective of any representations made, so talk of further sanctions is really neither here nor there. However, may I press the Minister a little further? Having P3 and E3, and talking to the new High Representative, is still not a proper European position. Will he say exactly how the three E3 countries—Germany, France and the United Kingdom—intend to work with the rest of the European Union and the new High Representative to bring some clout to the table?

The General Affairs Council is due to meet next week. There will be an attempt to get complete EU unity on this issue, so that we can go forward to the December E3 plus 3 meeting with a common EU position. We will then consider the case for a UN Security Council resolution.