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UK-Iranian Relations

Volume 515: debated on Tuesday 14 September 2010

13. What his most recent assessment is of the state of UK-Iranian relations; and if he will make a statement. (14858)

We would welcome improved relations with Iran. Improved relations will come with the Iranian Government engaging in good faith with the E3 plus 3 on their nuclear programme and on improving their increasingly poor human rights record.

Iran claims that criticism of attacks on Camp Ashraf refugees and the stoning to death of Sakineh Ashtiani are part of a soft war that the west is waging on Iran. Are we engaged in a soft war, and does more need to be done now to confront that regime’s intolerable human rights agenda?

We are not engaged in a war of any kind, but we want legitimate expressions of opinion to be heard and we want the human rights record of the Iranian Government to be seen for what it is throughout the world, because it is utterly unacceptable to anyone who cares about basic human rights anywhere on earth. I do not call that a war, but certainly, we want those things. The most important thing that we seek is for Iran to negotiate on its nuclear programme with the E3 plus 3—the three leading European nations and the other members of the UN Security Council—so that the danger of nuclear proliferation in the middle east can be addressed.

If, as expected, Iran looks as though it will acquire nuclear weapons capability and if all other avenues have been exhausted, will the Government support Israel if she takes military action to deal with that terrible threat?

I hope, Mr Speaker, that I dealt with that in answer to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind). I stress that we are taking a twin-track approach to the Iranian nuclear programme. One of those tracks is sanctions, and we agreed in the European Union at the end of July a strong and wide-ranging set of sanctions that puts additional pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. The other track is to remain open to negotiations about that nuclear programme. It is on that twin track that we must concentrate now.