UK's Straw says consensus growing for action on Iran

AFX | January 13 2006

LONDON (AFX) - A consensus is growing among the international community, including Russia, for action to tackle Iran's nuclear programme, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said today.

But Straw, who the day before had joined his French and German counterparts in Berlin to call for an emergency meeting of the UN's nuclear watchdog to discuss the crisis, insisted that military action was not being considered.

Asked whether Russia would fully back Tehran's referral to the United Nations Security Council, a possible precursor to sanctions, Straw told BBC radio he could not speak definitely for Moscow.

He added: 'But what I have detected in recent months is increasing impatience, not just by my European colleagues and the United States, but by other senior members of the international community about the behaviour of Iran.'

Following Thursday's meeting in Berlin, the EU nations' ministers said they were calling for an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer the Iran dossier to the Security Council.

International agreement on the next step was vital, Straw said.

'What happens now is that we are going to have extensive and urgent consultations with our key partners, including the United States, Russia and China and leaders of what's called the non-aligned movement, particularly India and Brazil,' he explained.

However, the call for an IAEA meeting was 'not necessarily saying' there would be sanctions, Straw stressed, also noting that military action was not being considered.

'I don't conceive of circumstances in which this will happen. I think in current circumstances it would not be conceivable, it would not be appropriate,' he said.

'Iran is not Iraq, we're working with the international community to resolve this in a peaceful and diplomatic manner,' the British minister added, insisting there were no differences of opinion over this with Washington.

'That's my opinion, it also happens to be the opinion of the White House,' he said.

'I promise you, I've never had a single discussion with anybody in the American adminsitration about even the possibility of military action.'

Western powers suspect that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful.

The Berlin meeting followed a storm of international criticism after Iran broke the seals at three nuclear plants to resume uranium enrichment research.

Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for nuclear power stations, but in its highly enriched form forms the explosive core for atomic weapons.