U.K. Ambassador to the U.N. Sir John Sawers Interview by Al-Jazeera on New Iran Sanctions (Excerpts)

March 4, 2008

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Layla al-Shayib:

Mr Sawers, you announced today that the [five permanent] Security Council members, plus Germany, wish to meet with the Iranian official in charge of the country's nuclear programme; should this meeting not have been held before the Security Council approved this new batch of sanctions against Iran?

Sawers:, speaking in English with superimposed Arabic translation.

Good evening and thank you for giving me this opportunity. It has been an extremely long process with Iran - we have been talking with the Iranian government for four years now about our concerns over its nuclear programme, and the EU's Javier Solana held several meetings with his Iranian counterparts, first with Mr Rowhani [former secretary of the Supreme Council of Iranian National Security], then with Mr Larijani [former secretary of the Supreme Council of Iranian National Security], and finally with Mr Jalili [incumbent secretary of the Supreme Council of Iranian National Security], but none of these meetings achieved the breakthrough we were hoping for. However, we want to press forth with our efforts, and these are not new efforts, but are an affirmation of our previous efforts and our determination to do all that we can to resolve our concerns over Iran's programme.

However, Iran has shown that it refuses to listen to the expectations and requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] or the Security Council, and it is moving forward with its nuclear programme even though it does not need it to generate peaceful nuclear energy. What concerns us is that Iran's programme might be designed to manufacture nuclear weapons and capabilities, and therefore, we call on Iran to suspend its most sensitive nuclear activities and allow these negotiations to move forward. This is what the resolution is about - we want to pressure Iran into doing so and into giving negotiations a chance.


But, if like you said, Mr Solana held all these meetings with Iranian officials and achieved nothing, then what will he carry to them this time - perhaps a new batch of incentives that is different from those he offered the Iranians in the past?


We were making progress with the previous Iranian government, but then there was a change in government in the summer of 2005. After long and difficult meetings, we achieved progress with Dr Larijani, but as soon as this progress was made, he was removed from his position, so we are now starting over with our third negotiator, Mr Jalili. We are prepared to reconsider the offer we made in June 2006, which is a generous offer that gives Iran all that it needs to develop a peaceful nuclear programme, and we are prepared to normalize its relations with the entire world, at least with the USA. This is what is at stake, but Iran has yet to meet the requirements of the entire international community, so do not expect us to negotiate with Iran indefinitely while it pursues very dangerous activities. This is the root of the matter.


No one expects negotiations with Iran to go on forever, but such measures have become somewhat routine and a recurring scenario - the Security Council approves sanctions, and then calls are made for meetings with Iranian officials. Will these sanctions, which are the third to be approved in the past year and a half, be the last?


These sanctions are carefully targeted because we do not want to hurt the Iranian economy or people - God knows that the Iranian people have suffered enough under their current leadership. What we want is to encourage Iran's leaders to take essential steps. We have entered an incremental process, and our actions are proportional to those of Iran. We will tighten sanctions one stage at a time until Iran accepts and understands that it must fulfil its legal obligations to the Security Council and the IAEA, and we have asked [IAEA Director] Dr [Muahammd] al-Baradi'i and the agency to submit another report in 90 days, and we will decide what further action to take depending on the report.


John Sawers, UK ambassador to the United Nations, in New York, thank you.