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Volume 536: debated on Tuesday 29 November 2011

Iran’s nuclear programme and its support for terrorism are serious threats to stability in the middle east. We and many other nations are resolute in our response to those threats, and Iran must show that it is serious about addressing international concerns—or face increasing isolation and pressure.

Given Iran’s involvement in the brutal Syrian crackdown, as well as its support for Hezbollah, the threat to Lebanese security and yesterday’s assertion that Egypt could be the new Iran, is the Foreign Secretary concerned that a nuclear-armed Iran would further be able to curtail freedoms in the region?

Yes, of course. There are many dangers in a nuclear-armed Iran, the prime one being that Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, that it would be a great breach of that treaty, and that nuclear proliferation throughout the middle east might then multiply greatly and become a threat to the peace of that region and to the world. The hon. Gentleman is also correct to argue, however, that a nuclear-armed Iran could feel in a stronger position to pursue other activities that were against the peace and the human rights of other countries in the region.

In tackling Iran’s nuclear programme, the international community must present a united front. Russia and China retain extensive trade links with Iran and appear unsupportive of additional UN sanctions. What progress have the Government made on persuading those other states to introduce and to implement robustly tougher sanctions on Iran?

It is important to recognise that Russia and China have supported all the United Nations Security Council resolutions that have been passed so far on this subject, and that they are part of the so-called E3 plus 3 process of negotiation with Iran. Those countries have certainly played their part in this. It is true, however, that they are not currently in favour of further tightening of the sanctions regime on Iran. We will continue to discuss that with them, but in the meantime we are pursuing tighter sanctions with the United States, Canada and the European Union in the ways that I described earlier.

In the context of sanctions, diplomatic efforts and intergovernmental discussions, does the Foreign Secretary agree that public opinion here in the United Kingdom, and across Europe and the west, is extremely important, and that more needs to be done to explain the exact nature of the threat that Iran poses to the public so that the public come along with whatever we are trying to do?

Yes, I fully take that point from the right hon. Gentleman. I think there is a very wide recognition of this issue. However, since it is a matter of escalating tension, and certainly of escalating pressure from our point of view over the coming months, we will make every effort to explain its importance and why we cannot simply ignore it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Hezbollah continues to be funded both with money and weapons, and that last night it launched four missiles from Lebanon on to Israel? Will he take urgent steps to ensure that the Lebanese Government fulfil United Nations resolution 1701?

Yes, it is deeply concerning that rocket fire has again taken place from Lebanon into Israel. I believe that it is the first time since October 2009 that we have seen such rocket fire. We strongly condemn any such action that stokes tension in the region, and we urge restraint on all sides.