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Volume 534: debated on Tuesday 25 October 2011

We strongly support the use of targeted sanctions in relation to our concerns about Iran’s nuclear activity, its human rights abuses and the recently discovered international terrorist activity in the United States. The choice is clear: those who continue to follow such a course can either remain on it and face further sanctions and isolation or they can respond to the wishes of the international community and have those sanctions lifted.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he share with the House the Government’s assessment of the military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear programme, particularly given that the Iranians continue to refuse to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency?

The IAEA is, in a sense, the keeper of the conscience of the world in relation to the bargain between those with nuclear weapons and those without. It has reported recently its increasing concern, as my hon. Friend says, about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme, and a further report is expected in November. Concerns have increased because of the news that the centrifuges are going to be moved to Qom, underground, and there is no civilian justification for the enrichment programme that Iran is working on. All those things are rightfully our concern.

The IAEA called the weapons programme in Iran “extensive and comprehensive”. May I ask the Minister whether sanctions are working, what more the UN should do and whether he favours an extension of sanctions into oil and gas exports?

The process of sanctions has been cumulative over time. There is evidence that they are beginning to have an impact on the economy in relation to Iran—above all, targeted on the individuals who are most responsible—but as well as the sanctions track there is a negotiations track. Nuclear powers have made it very clear, as have the E3 plus 3, that there is an opportunity for negotiation with Iran if it would be open about its nuclear policy. We urge Iran to follow that track so that sanctions can be lifted and the world can be convinced of the civilian purposes of Iran’s programme if that is, indeed, the case.