Questions for Prime Minister Tony Blair on Iran's Nuclear Plans (Excerpts)

January 11, 2006

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Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): May I associate myself with what the Prime Minister said about Rachel Squire? She will be missed on both sides of the House, and she was especially noted for her very good work on defence. I also agree with him about Tony Banks, who had a commitment to sport and a legendary wit, which was often directed at people trying to do my job. Personally, I also have fond memories of Merlyn Rees, the respected former Labour Home Secretary who died recently. Believe it or not, I remember going with him to the Republican party convention in America in 1992. I think he must have been new Labour before the term was properly invented.

The decision by Iran yesterday to break the seals of its nuclear facility has caused widespread concern. What steps does the Prime Minister propose to take to maximise the international consensus on taking the issue to the United Nations Security Council?

The Prime Minister: First, let me say that there will be a meeting of European Ministers tomorrow when we will discuss how we can take this forward now. The decision by Iran is very serious indeed-I do not think that there is any point in people or us hiding our deep dismay at what Iran has decided to do. When that is taken in conjunction with its other comments about the state of Israel, real and serious alarm is caused right across the world. The meeting will take place tomorrow and we are obviously discussing the matter closely with our American allies as well. A reference to the Security Council is entirely in line with what the International Atomic Energy Agency itself decided some time ago. The only reason why it suspended a reference to the Security Council was because Iran had suspended its enrichment facilities. That is why it is extremely important that we take a fresh look at this now.

Mr. Cameron: Clearly, if the matter does go to the United Nations Security Council-we hope that it will-one of the issues will be sanctions. The Prime Minister well knows that sanctions in the past have not always been effective in getting countries to comply with their international obligations. What steps will he take to ensure that they are effective in this case?

The Prime Minister: I think that the first thing to do is to secure agreement for a reference to the Security Council, if that is, indeed, what the allies jointly decide, as I think seems likely. At that point, we have to decide what measures we are going to take. We obviously do not rule out any measures. It is important that Iran recognises how seriously the international community treats it. However, it is better to go through the process of first having the meetings and discussions, and reaching agreement; we can then set out the measures that we want to take.

Mr. Cameron: I am sure that what the Prime Minister says about following the process is right. The aim we all share is non-proliferation. However, is it not the case, as he says, that Iran has not only taken steps repeatedly to acquire nuclear weapons, but has also made the very damaging remarks-threatening remarks-to which he referred, about the future of Israel? Given that, does not that underline the case for stepping up our efforts to encourage pluralism, a civic society and a liberal and progressive culture in Iran itself?

The Prime Minister: I have no doubt at all that when we consider the issues, there are two things that we need to do. First, we have to take immediate steps to protect the security of the world. That is why a potential reference to the Security Council is important. That is absolutely right. Breaking the seals is a very important act. The statements on Israel are important statements, which, I am afraid, indicate a malign intention on the part of the Iranian regime.

Secondly, we have to consider the long-term issue of how we best protect the security of the world. I have no doubt that the best long-term security for us is the spread of freedom, democracy and values that all civilised people share. The important thing about the recent elections in Afghanistan and Iraq is that they dispose once and for all of the myth that democracy is something that western people want, but that those in other cultures do not want. In fact, democracy and freedom are values of the human spirit-they are universal values-and we have learned enough from our international diplomacy over the past few decades to recognise that the only long-term stable partners for countries like Britain, the United States of America and our allies in Europe are those that share our values.

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