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Volume 542: debated on Monday 26 March 2012

I regularly discuss a wide range of security issues with my NATO counterparts. The UK continues to work with other countries to achieve a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We want a negotiated solution, not a military one, but we are clear that all options should be kept on the table.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Most of the people I speak to on this subject are very concerned about any prospect of military action against Iran. Can the Secretary of State reassure them that everything that can be done through diplomatic means is being done, and what steps is he taking with his US counterparts to move that forward?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that everything possible is being done. The UK has been in the forefront of the effort progressively to tighten sanctions against Iran. All the evidence suggests that they are beginning to have an impact on the Iranian economy and the Iranian regime. We are also leading supporters of the E3 plus 3 talks, and we are moderately encouraged by Iran’s commitment to resume talking next month, but, of course, the proof will be in the pudding, as we have heard all this before. We hope this is a genuine re-engagement by Iran, but, as I said earlier, we should leave all options on the table.

In the absence of the appropriate UN Security Council authorisation and the justification of self-defence, does the Secretary of State agree that any attack on Iran, whether by Israel or not, would be an act of aggression and in breach of international law?

That would depend on the circumstances. For the United Kingdom, a pre-emptive attack would certainly be regarded as illegal.