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Volume 749: debated on Monday 25 November 2013


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement which my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made to the Commons.

“Two weeks ago, I reported to the House on the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Geneva between 8 and 10 November. I explained that our aim was to produce an interim first-step agreement with Iran that could then create the confidence and time to negotiate a comprehensive and final settlement addressing all concerns about its nuclear programme. We have always been clear that because Iran’s programme is so extensive, and because crucial aspects of it have been concealed in the past, any agreement would have to be detailed and give assurance to the whole world that the threat of nuclear proliferation in Iran would be properly addressed. I said that we believed that such a deal was on the table and that we would do our utmost to bridge the narrow gaps between the parties and conclude a strong agreement.

On Wednesday last week, the E3+3 and Iranian negotiators resumed their work in Geneva, and on Saturday morning I and the other E3+3 Foreign Ministers joined the talks. At 4 am yesterday we concluded the negotiations successfully, agreeing a thorough and detailed first-stage agreement with Iran, which is a significant step towards enhancing the security of the Middle East and preventing nuclear proliferation worldwide. In this Statement I will cover the extensive commitments that Iran has made, the sanctions relief that it has been offered in return and the steps we will now take to implement and build on what was agreed.

First, we have agreed a joint plan of action with Iran, with the end goal of a comprehensive settlement that ensures its nuclear programme will be for exclusively peaceful purposes. The agreement has a duration of six months, renewable by mutual consent, and it sets out actions to be taken by both sides as a first step, as well as the elements to be negotiated in a final comprehensive settlement. I have placed a copy of the agreement in the Library of the House, but I wish now to highlight its most important aspects.

Iran has made a number of very significant commitments. Over the next six months, Iran will cease enriching uranium above 5%, the level beyond which it becomes much easier to produce weapons-grade uranium. Furthermore, it has undertaken to eradicate its stockpile of the most concerning form of uranium enriched above 5%, by diluting half of it to a level of less than 5% and converting the other half to oxide. Iran will not install further centrifuges in its nuclear facilities or start operating installed centrifuges that have not yet been switched on. It will replace existing centrifuges only with centrifuges of the same type, and produce centrifuges only to replace damaged existing machines on a like-for-like basis. In other words, Iran will not install or bring into operation advanced centrifuges that could enable it to produce a dangerous level of enriched uranium more quickly. Iran will cap its stockpile of up to 5% enriched uranium in the highest risk UF6 form by converting any newly enriched uranium into oxide. It will not set up any new locations for enrichment or establish a reprocessing or reconversion facility.

Iran has agreed to enhanced monitoring of its nuclear programme going beyond existing IAEA inspections in Iran, including access to centrifuge assembly workshops and to uranium mines and mills. Iran will also provide the IAEA with additional information, including about its plans for nuclear facilities. At the heavy water research reactor at Arak, which offers Iran a potential route to a nuclear weapon through the production of plutonium rather than uranium, Iran will not commission the reactor, or transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site, or test additional fuel, or produce more fuel for the reactor, or install any remaining components.

This agreement means that the elements of Iran’s nuclear programme that are thought to present the greatest risk cannot make progress during the six-month period of the interim agreement. In other words, if Iran implements the deal in good faith, as it has undertaken to do, it cannot use these routes to move closer to obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. Moreover, some of the most dangerous elements of Iran’s programme are not only frozen but actually rolled back; for instance, the agreement involves the eradication of around 200 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium in UF6 form that Iran has been building up and stockpiling for several years.

Secondly, in return for these commitments Iran will receive proportionate, limited sanctions relief from the United States and the European Union. For its part, the United States will pause efforts to reduce crude oil sales to Iran’s oil customers, repatriate to Iran some of its oil revenue held abroad, suspend sanctions on the Iranian auto industry, allow the licensing of safety-related repairs and inspections for certain Iranian airlines, and establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian and legitimate trade, including for payments to international organisations and for Iranians studying abroad.

It is proposed that the EU and US together will suspend sanctions on oil-related insurance and transport costs, which will allow the provision of such services to third states for the import of Iranian oil. We will also suspend the prohibition of the import, purchase or transport of Iranian petrochemical products, and suspend sanctions on Iranian imports of gold and precious metals. But core sanctions on Iranian oil and gas will remain in place. It is intended that the EU will also increase by an agreed amount the authorisation thresholds for financial transactions for humanitarian and non-sanctioned trade with Iran. The Council of Ministers of the European Union will be asked to adopt legislation necessary to amend these sanctions, and the new provisions would then apply to all EU member states.

The total value of the sanctions relief is estimated at $7 billion over the six-month period. There will be no new nuclear-related sanctions adopted by the UN, EU and US during this six-month period. However, the bulk of international sanctions on Iran will remain in place. This includes the EU and US oil embargo which restricts globally oil purchases from Iran, and sanctions on nuclear, military or ballistic missile-related goods and technology. It includes all frozen revenue and foreign exchange reserves held in accounts outside Iran and sanctions on many Iranian banks, such as the Central Bank of Iran, which means that all Iranian assets in the US and EU remain frozen apart from the limited repatriation of revenue under this agreement. Iranian leaders and key individuals and entities will still have their assets in the EU and US frozen and be banned from travelling to the EU and US, and tough financial measures, including a ban from using financial messaging services and transactions with European and US banks, also remain in place. These sanctions will not be lifted until a comprehensive settlement is reached, and we will enforce them robustly. This ensures that Iran still has a powerful incentive to continue to negotiate to reach a comprehensive settlement—which is the third aspect of the agreement on which I wish to update the House today.

The agreement sets out the elements of a comprehensive solution which we would aim to conclude within one year. These elements include Iran’s rights and obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA safeguards; the full resolution of concerns related to the heavy water research reactor at Arak; agreed transparency and monitoring including the additional protocol; and co-operation on Iran’s civilian nuclear programme. In return for full confidence on the part of the international community that Iran’s programme is solely peaceful, the plan of action envisages a mutually defined enrichment programme with agreed parameters and limits, but only as part of a comprehensive agreement where nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. This comprehensive solution, if and when agreed, would lead to the lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Reaching this interim agreement was a difficult and painstaking process, and there is a huge amount of work to be done to implement it. Implementation will begin following technical discussions with Iran and the IAEA and EU preparations to suspend the relevant sanctions, which we hope will all be concluded by the end of January 2014. A joint commission of the E3+3 and Iran will be established to monitor the implementation of these first-step measures, and it will work with the IAEA to resolve outstanding issues of concern.

However, the fact that we have achieved for the first time in nearly a decade an agreement that halts and rolls back Iran’s nuclear programme should give us heart that this work can be done and that a comprehensive agreement can be attained. On an issue of such complexity, and given the fact that to make any diplomatic agreement worth while to both sides has to involve compromises, such an agreement is bound to have its critics and opponents. But we are right to test to the full Iran’s readiness to act in good faith to work with the rest of the international community and to enter into international agreements. If it does not abide by its commitments, it will bear a heavy responsibility, but if we did not take the opportunity to attempt such an agreement, then we ourselves would have been guilty of a grave error. It is true that if we did not have this agreement, the pressure of sanctions on Iran would not be alleviated at all. But it is also true that there would be no restraint on advances to its programme, no check on its enrichment activity and stockpiles, no block on its addition of centrifuges, no barrier to prevent it bringing into operation its heavy water research reactor at Arak and no limitation on the many actions which could take it closer to a nuclear weapons capability.

The bringing together of this agreement with all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council united behind it in itself sends a powerful signal. While it is only a beginning, there is no doubt that this is an important, necessary and completely justified step which, through its restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme, gives us the time to negotiate a comprehensive settlement. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, to my Foreign Ministerial colleagues and to our Foreign Office staff, who have played an indispensable role. We will apply the same rigour and determination we have shown in these negotiations to the implementation of the agreement and to the search for a comprehensive settlement. At the same time we will continue to be open to improvements in our bilateral relationship on a step-by-step and reciprocal basis, and our new chargé d’affaires will visit Iran shortly. This agreement has shown that the combination of pressure expressed through sanctions coupled with a readiness to negotiate is the right policy.

For a long time that has been the united approach of this country, from the efforts of the right honourable Member for Blackburn to pursue negotiations a decade ago to the cross-party support in this House for the wide-ranging sanctions we have adopted in recent years. We have been steadfast in pursuing this twin-track policy and seeking a peaceful solution. This agreement is true to that approach and the sheer persistence of the United Kingdom and our allies. This will remain our policy over the coming months as we build on and implement the first step on the long journey to making the Middle East and the whole world safer from nuclear proliferation”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for repeating the Statement made earlier in another place. I believe that the agreement between Iran and the western powers, increasing the likelihood that Iran will not build a nuclear weapon in the near future, is of genuine significance. The next six months are, then, of the utmost importance.

We congratulate those who have been closely involved, especially Secretary of State John Kerry, on what appear to have been months of discreet diplomacy even before the events of this last few days, and my noble friend Lady Ashton on her remarkable lead role in negotiations. She is entitled to the warm thanks of this Parliament and this nation. Her Majesty’s Government have plainly played a substantive part—a part which I straightforwardly acknowledge, including the role of the Foreign Secretary. I also join him in congratulating officials in the FCO, of whom I have great memories, and my right honourable friend Jack Straw, whose role in initiating some of these steps was so important.

It is clear that what we have here are steps along a road. The whole journey is very far from complete, and there is no guarantee that the journey will be completed. None the less, the political momentum to secure this interim deal is extremely important. I echo the Foreign Secretary’s words about how we should approach the next part of the process—that,

“nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

The agreement has manifest limits. It results from a co-ordinated approach, including the use of sanctions if real progress is not made for any reason. Should we find that progress is not made, we must conclude that those arrangements should continue—co-ordination, sustained negotiation and sanctions would have to be deployed again.

The agreement places constraints on Iran’s nuclear programme, in return for which we ease financial sanctions. It sets limits on nuclear aspirations and makes provision for serious inspections. It does not halt the nuclear programme, and although the inspectors are obviously to be more intrusive, their rights to intrusion are not exhaustive. It does not dismantle Iran’s nuclear capability. It cannot therefore guarantee to bridle all future developments. I know that many will argue that it should not, but I can see the basis of the anxieties in Israel and the Gulf about this. It is important for us to encourage them to give this process a chance, whatever those anxieties might be.

To give it a chance, it is essential to keep up pressure for a full, comprehensive agreement. John Kerry’s sense of urgency in the last couple of days is well placed: momentum in this is vital. Next, the ground rules for the next steps need to be expressed. The Iranian nuclear ambitions must be capped. The international community must have total, unrestricted confidence in verification. No part of the programme can remain hidden. There can be no “inalienable rights” to enrich. These issues must form the bedrock of the work to come. To achieve these bases, it would be helpful if Her Majesty’s Government could answer some questions that I think may be of genuine significance.

Although the agreement concedes daily access for the IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordo, there is no clarity about access to the heavy water research reactor or other facilities at Arak. How often will inspectors be allowed to see Arak? I note the Foreign Secretary’s statement of reservation, which was quite rightly included in his Statement. What steps will be taken to dismantle Fordo? That is not specifically covered by the agreement, but is likely to prove vital if the world, and in particular the region, is to feel confident about the most deeply buried facility and the one that potentially offers the most unrestrained danger. Does the agreement achieve IAEA inspector access to Parchin, where it is generally thought that tests have been conducted on the detonation mechanisms of a nuclear weapon?

How will Iran be required to meet the full obligations of the IAEA under the non-proliferation treaty? After all, these go far further than the interim agreement. Is there a real understanding between the P5+1 and Iran on what is meant by those words “right to enrich”?

What steps will the United Kingdom take—as I believe we can—to engage regional allies and friends, including Israel and the Gulf states, to provide the confidence which I suspect they genuinely seek as we go through the process of the remaining talks?

What measures will we and others take to sustain pressure? I note what the Foreign Secretary said. The relief of $7 billion with immediate effect is obviously very important, but are the measures set out in the Statement really likely to be adequate if the process does not go forward as we wish it to? It needs continuous progress, not least because of the issues of Syria and Geneva II. The engagement of Iran in the process of sorting out the appalling problems of Syria seems to us of the highest importance, as we have shared in this House many a time.

This has been a setback in nuclear terms for Iran, but it is not the end of the task. What are the benchmarks that we should expect for progress in reaching the comprehensive agreement? How should we make an assessment? I know that talks are often private and confidential, but those around the world will ask that question.

I do not say any of that to be churlish; I have a fair measure of optimism in my heart today. However, we need urgent and sustained progress. We have made what is a very good start, but it needs to be drawn to a great conclusion. I conclude by saying that, in this process, we have had a bipartisan approach and the Government have our support.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord very warmly for his very constructive and bipartisan comments. I think it is extremely important that this is seen as something to which the entire political community within Britain is committed, that we take it forward together and that we make sure that we are all well informed as we go forward together on the dangers, but also the possibilities.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord for his compliments to the Foreign Office team and the Foreign Secretary himself. There have been occasions in the past few months when I have felt like saying to the Foreign Secretary, when I meet him, “Is this a short visit to Britain or are you here for two days?”. As we all know, he has been travelling a great deal in pursuing this issue. The noble Lord is also absolutely right to give strong compliments to the American Secretary of State and the State Department team—and, of course, the other European diplomats, not least at all our colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, who have also worked flat out on all this.

I stress that this is only an interim agreement for six months. There is a lot more still to be done. On the question of how often inspectors will be allowed to visit, the agreement as signed provides some details on enhanced monitoring including,

“Daily IAEA inspector access when inspectors are not present for the purpose of Design Information Verification”,

et cetera, with relevance to Fordo and Natanz. However, the details on the exact degree of access are part of what needs to be sorted out between now and January, when we hope the six-month clock will start ticking.

As the noble Lord will know, there is not yet agreement between the two sides on the right to enrich. We are clear that every signatory of the non-proliferation treaty has the right to develop nuclear power for peaceful nuclear purposes, but we have not yet reached a full agreement with Iran on how that fits in with the full and detailed IAEA obligations.

Lastly, the noble Lord talked about the potential overlap with the Syrian conflict and the Geneva II talks. Let me stress that this is a negotiation with Iran about the nuclear issue; it does not have a direct overlap into other issues. Of course we may hope, however, that if we are successful in achieving a comprehensive settlement, it will have wider impacts on relations across the Middle East as a whole.

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I understand about the daily inspections in two sites, but I was very particular in asking what the inspection regime for Arak will be.

My Lords, I see here that the agreement also refers to a,

“Submission of an updated … design information questionnaire … for the reactor at Arak”.

However, the exact details of the inspection regime on an interim basis are part of the detail that has to be negotiated and agreed between the parties between now and when the interim agreement comes into implementation in, we hope, late January.

My Lords, I remind the House of the benefit of short questions for my noble friend the Minister in order that all noble Lords who wish to contribute may have a decent chance of doing so.

My Lords, perhaps I might briefly ask the noble Lord to say a bit more, if he can, about the part played by our colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, in brokering this very welcome agreement.

My Lords, my understanding is that under a UN Security Council resolution, the noble Baroness was designated as the co-ordinator for these negotiations. This has been an EU exercise with the three largest Governments within the European Union, in effect, representing the EU. The noble Baroness has to some extent represented the interests of the other 25 member states and I know that she has put an enormous amount of effort into this as well.

My Lords, I add my thanks to the Minister for repeating the Statement and, if I may say so, for his own contribution to the work of the Foreign Office team, for the outstanding work of the Foreign Secretary and Mr Kerry and, not least, for the really great steps taken—one has to add this—by the Iranian Foreign Secretary in trying to bring about an agreement, with what was perhaps the significant support of the supreme ruler in Iran. It is the outbreak of common-sense discussion, real wisdom and a real desire to avoid war which has driven this remarkable agreement. I say to my noble friend that this is a remarkable moment in history. Of course, it is not the end but the beginning of a crucial set of steps towards bringing Iran back into the comity of nations and enabling us to produce a new structure that will give both the IAEA and the protection from nuclear proliferation an extremely important new impetus.

Perhaps I may say one other word, which is that I hope that the naysayers of this world—those who are likely to oppose this agreement—will recognise that the alternatives are terrible ones. They are in either military action or going back to absolute chaos in the Middle East. At a time when many of us are grieving over the terrible cost of the invasion of Iraq and, for that matter, the long war in Afghanistan, this is a moment when we should recognise the achievement of diplomacy and sensible discussion, as distinct from attempts to threaten other countries.

I have two questions. First, I do not in any way disagree with the questions asked so powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, but it is crucial to recognise as well that we need to build on the elements coming out of this agreement that would so massively strengthen the battle against proliferation of nuclear weapons. I ask my noble friend whether the addition of the concept of enhanced monitoring that has come out of this agreement is one that, in his own view, could be extended more readily throughout the whole nuclear proliferation issue, along with the remarkable steps taken by the IAEA towards a much more powerful regime, including in effect the additional protocol, which up till now Iran has not been willing to sign.

My second question is whether the creation of the so-called committee of the E3 plus 3 with Iran might enable us to begin to build the first of new relationships with this isolated but intensely important country, which will enable it to make a serious contribution to the Syrian civil war. In that context, there are cultural, religious and economic links that could be made with Iran that would help to bring it in from the cold and build on the hopeful measures towards a more open and democratic Iran, as we have seen in the past few months.

I thank the noble Baroness for her compliments to the Foreign Secretary and others. We hope that this will prove to have been a remarkable moment in history, but we do not yet know; the test will be in the negotiations that take place over the next year. There is no doubt that sanctions and the extent to which they were biting in Iran have played a major part in shifting opinions in the Iranian regime in all its complexity, and certainly among the Iranian public.

In response to the noble Baroness’s questions, of course we would like to see a tougher, enhanced IAEA regime that spreads to others. I suspect that the noble Baroness knows a great deal more about this than I do, since I know that she has been involved in a lot of international discussions on this matter. That is one of the things that could grow out of these negotiations. The joint commission will, of course, be concerned with implementing the agreement. The first visit of the chargé already appointed is likely to take place in the next few weeks, and we may hope that, from that, other relationships may grow—but that will be something that we all have to work for as we work through these still complex and delicate negotiations.

I add my congratulations to the Government on the conclusion of this interim agreement and to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton. I hope that the Minister will find some way of conveying to her the views that have been warmly expressed in this House this afternoon. She has put in a huge effort.

This is the first step, as the Minister says, away from this conflict and others in the Middle East. Does he agree that, while it is clearly right that Israel’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program should be treated seriously, attempts by the Prime Minister of Israel to prevent or perhaps now to wreck this agreement would be counterproductive and, in fact, against Israel’s long-term interests? Does he also agree that Saudi Arabia and our other friends in the Gulf ought to be brought to understand that a non-nuclear weapon state Iran could and should be a genuine regional player in the Gulf region? Finally, does he agree that the British Government should urge those points and use their influence in Washington with those who are most critical of the agreement to explain why the British Government believe that this is the right way forward?

My Lords, we are all conscious of nervousness in a number of other states in the Middle East about this agreement. We are persuaded that this enhances the security of Israel. The alternative, which might have led to a military attack on Iran, would have jeopardised a whole range of issues about the long-term security of the Middle East. We have said that to our Israeli friends. The Prime Minister spoke to Mr Netanyahu in the middle of the previous round of negotiations on 9 November and will no doubt be talking to him again. We have been saying the same to our friends in Saudi Arabia and the various Gulf states. We have many active diplomats and friends in Washington who will be saying the same to the American Congress; but the noble Lord knows that American politics are even more complex than those of most other states.

My Lords, I add my congratulations to everyone involved and echo the sentiments that have been expressed about the role played by my noble friend Lady Ashton. She has been subjected to what I consider to be much unwarranted criticism despite the fact that she has, unheralded and unsung, had some singular successes, not least in Kosovo. This is an occasion on which the feelings of this House should be sent to our colleague.

I have two questions. First, while we approach this with a degree of elation—it is only a step, but it is a significant first step—we can nevertheless understand why such an apparently sudden turn of events should have perhaps caused some confusion and worry among some of our traditional allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. What steps are being taken to reassure and persuade them, if necessary, that the normalisation of relationships with Iran is in everyone’s interest, not least that of the region itself?

Secondly, while we are right to temper our feelings of elation with a degree of caution, will the Minister bear in mind that each step that is taken, however singular it might be, opens up other opportunities? I am persuaded that some of the decisions to proceed as we did on Syria, rather than taking the alternative route, opened—as some in this House including the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, predicted—a gateway to further compromise and discussion with Iran. Similarly, although there is a long way to go on this, I urge the Minister to seek to use this gateway for further exploration of work in the area, including in Syria, involving Iran as the great nation it has been historically. It will surely return to the realms of the United Nations and international influence if it proceeds along the path it is taking at present.

My Lords, I will be happy to convey the thoughts of this House to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton; I may be able to do so to her husband in the next few days. While compliments are going around, I remark that I have been immensely impressed, as a Liberal Democrat, in working with William Hague over the past three years. He works exceptionally hard and has travelled extensively on this. His relationship with his Russian counterpart has been quite a significant factor in building trust and co-operation across the P5. It is also worth marking that this is a triumph of European co-operation: the British working with our German and French counterparts. Perhaps even the Daily Mail might like to note that.

On the wider region, with this deeply unstable region, with jihadists of different hues threatening even more brutal civil conflict spilling over different borders, anything which perhaps begins to reverse that potential spiral downhill is immensely worth while. We very much hope that this will help to turn that corner. We are also of course conscious that Iran is a great country with a long history, and that it has a complicated history with the United Kingdom which it has not forgotten quite as easily as we have. That is one of the many things which we need to overcome.

Will my noble friend continue to make the point that this is a real contribution by the European Union and by the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton? There has been a good deal of misstatement by the British press over these arrangements. This shows just what Europe can do, is doing and ought to do at a time when people sometimes try to suggest otherwise. Will the Minister say to the nay-sayers that to refuse to make this step would mean that there would be no steps? You have to make a first step. If you always say, “Well, it might go wrong”, nothing will ever go right. To hear some people, they are condemning us to a situation in which no one will ever try to do anything. That has to be the message to Mr Netanyahu and to the Saudis—that if they maintain their position, they are saying to the rest of the world that this will be an area of conflict for ever. That is not something that any of us should accept.

I thank the noble Lord for his comments and agree entirely with them. We recognise that diplomats spend an awful lot of their time working on negotiations that do not lead anywhere and trying to support compromises that are attacked on all sides. This is one happy example—we hope—of when diplomacy will have succeeded.

My Lords, I, too, add my congratulations to all who have been involved in this development. I will ask two short questions. First, is there a mismatch between the time at which sanctions may be partially released on the one hand and the nuclear inspections on the other? Is there a problem with starting this programme only in January, which would give time for the Iranians perhaps to do more mischief in the interim period? On the question of the percentage at which enrichment is to be allowed, I have heard figures of 5% and 20%. Can the noble Lord clarify which of these is correct?

My Lords, the timing of sanctions release is very carefully calibrated. The sanctions that will be lifted are extremely limited—the majority of them will remain in place. Incidentally, I asked the briefing team how far humanitarian sanctions would include some relief of the controls on medicines and medical supplies for Iran. I know that that is one of the things that has hit Iran particularly hard. I, personally, welcome the provision of repairs and spare parts for Iranian airlines, because it has become increasingly unsafe to fly within Iran, as the noble Lord will know. On the gap between now and January, we cannot put that immediately into operation. However, the sanctions relief does not go into immediate operation either. We need to work through the details. On 5% and 20%, the latter is the point at which it becomes dangerous and relatively easy to carry through the further enrichment to weapons-grade uranium. Therefore the Iranians have agreed to dilute half of their current, rather large stockpile of 20% uranium back down to 5%, which is the point at which it is useful for civil nuclear power but not for very much else, and to convert the other half into uranium oxide, which also makes it useful for civil nuclear power but not for weapons.

My Lords, I associate myself very strongly with the words of my noble friend Lord Deben about the contribution made by the European Union and by the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton. I also associate myself with the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who praised the Iranian negotiators. It is often forgotten, when one looks at the position of Iran on these matters, that it is one of the countries that have been on the receiving end of weapons of mass destruction, namely from Iraq. When a country has been on the receiving end of such weapons, that makes it very sensitive to its own ability to protect itself against all eventualities. When one looks at the Iranian nuclear programme, it is important to bear that in mind. Therefore, the concessions that the Iranians have made and the apparent good will with which they have entered into these negotiations must have required a very considerable effort on their part. We should certainly pay tribute to them and we hope very much that they, with the West, will be able to bring this to a conclusion.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comments. We have negotiated this agreement with the Government of Iran. As all noble Lords will know, Iran is an extremely complex country with an extremely complex political system. We hope that the Government of Iran will make this stick. Nevertheless, we know that there are elements within the political system of Iran who may not be quite as happy with it as the Government are. That is part of what we will test out in the coming months.

My Lords, I associate myself with all the congratulations that have been offered to those who we can name because of their pre-eminent role in what has happened but also to those many diplomats whose names we do not know. One of the facilities that has caused most concern is the underground nuclear facility where uranium enrichment has not been carried out at a nuclear level but has certainly been produced in quantities that have given great cause for concern. Will the noble Lord assure the House that the underground facilities will be inspected by the IAEA, as my noble friend Lord Triesman asked?

In asking my next question, I declare an unremunerated interest as the chairman of the British side of the Saudi-British Business Council. I returned from Saudi Arabia early this morning. A considerable job will obviously have to be done to convince many of our friends in the Gulf states of the wisdom of the agreement that has been made. Will the Minister tell the House a little more about what is intended to be done now—not what has been done in the past because that has still left a lot of questions in the minds of colleagues, particularly in Saudi Arabia—to give assurance to the Gulf states about the agreement that has been reached?

My Lords, a great many officials have worked long hours and have spent a long time on planes going back and forth. It so happens that the State Department official I know best has led the State Department delegation at official level. According to everything I have heard, she has done extremely well. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done. On the underground facilities at Fordo, the exact details of the inspection regime remain to be negotiated and agreed, and then enforced, between now and the end of January. However, it is clear that we expect to have access to all these facilities. Of course, there are Saudi and Gulf state concerns, as there are concerns in Israel, and we are in active dialogue with the Saudis and others about them. It would be disastrous for the Middle East if this were to descend into a sectarian Sunni/Shia conflict. Let us hope that one of the outcomes of the agreement will be to reverse what some of us feared might be taking us in that direction.