Iran's nuclear push may trigger Cold War: UK

Western powers pressing Tehran to hold talks on N-programme

Iran is clearly trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability, and if it succeeds it will set off a dangerous round of nuclear proliferation across the West Asia, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said in an interview published Saturday.

Iran says its uranium enrichment programme is purely for civilian purposes, but Western powers suspect Tehran is trying to develop the ability to produce nuclear weapons.
Western powers have been pressing Tehran to hold substantive talks on its nuclear programme and want it to halt its uranium enrichment, but Iran says it has an absolute right to press ahead with its plans.

Several rounds of increasingly punitive United Nations and Western sanctions have failed to persuade Iran to stop its enrichment programme, some of which has been moved to underground buildings for greater security. The Iranians “are clearly continuing their nuclear weapons programme,” Hague told The Daily Telegraph. “If they obtain nuclear weapons capability, I think other nations across the West Asia will want to develop nuclear weapons.”

“The most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented would have begun, with all the destabilising effects in the West Asia, and the threat of a new Cold War in the West Asia without necessarily all the safety mechanisms,” he said.
“That would be a disaster in world affairs.”

There has been public discussion in Israel about whether it should attack Iran to stop it from developing a nuclear bomb, and tension between the two foes has been raised by attacks on Israeli diplomats abroad and the recent assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran.

“We are very clear to all concerned that we are not advocating military action,” Hague said in the interview. “We support a twin-track strategy of sanctions and pressure, and negotiations on the other hand.”

“We are not favouring the idea of anybody attacking Iran at the moment,” he added. The latest signal from Tehran that it might be willing to resume talks on the nuclear issue, in the form of a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, have been greeted with cautious optimism by the US and European Union.

Talks may resume

While keeping their options open, the US and EU have signalled that talks with Iran over its nuclear programme could resume, for the first time in more than a year, after Tehran dropped its pre-conditions to a dialogue. Stopping short of calling it a diplomatic breakthrough, top US and EU officials expressed cautious optimism over prospects that Iran may be willing to engage major powers in new talks, but emphasised any dialogue should be focused on the nuclear issue.

All options on table, says Panetta

In escalating war of words, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has warned Iran that “all options” are on the table if Tehran blocks the Straits of Hormuz or if it goes nuclear, PTI reports from Washington.

“We’ve made clear that we will not tolerate an Iran that tries to block the Straits of Hormuz. A fifth of the oil of the world goes through those straits. They’re international waters. We’re not going to allow them to block that,” he warned, terming these as red lines. The US, he said, doesn’t want an Iran that basically spreads violence around the world, which supports terrorism, that conducts acts of violence.

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