18 Feb 2012

Hague warns of new Cold War over Iran

The mounting tension over Iran’s nuclear ambitions could escalate into “a new Cold War”, William Hague has warned.

The Foreign Secretary said other countries across the Middle East could try to follow suit if the Islamic Republic persists in trying to develop an atomic weapons programme, sparking a “serious round of nuclear proliferation” in the troubled region.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hague said Britain did not favour military action against Iran – as Israel is thought to do – but warned of a “nuclear crisis coming down the tracks”.

Mr Hague said: “(The Iranians) are clearly continuing their nuclear weapons programme.

“If they obtain nuclear weapons capability, then I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons.

“And so, the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented would have begun with all the destabilising effects in the Middle East. And the threat of a new Cold War in the Middle East without necessarily all the safety mechanisms. That would be a disaster in world affairs.”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced this week that Iran had loaded its first domestically-made fuel rod into a nuclear reactor.

Iran insists its uranium enrichment programme is purely for civilian purposes.

But Israel is rumoured to be planning military strikes within months as fears grow that Tehran’s nuclear ambitions extend beyond energy production.

The Jewish state’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak said tough sanctions should be given time to work but did not rule out military action, saying: “No option should be left off the table”.

Britain and the US favour the use of sanctions to try to pressure the Islamist regime over the nuclear question.

Mr Hague stressed that “all options must remain on the table” concerning Iran but said that a military attack would have “enormous downsides”.
“We are very clear to all concerned that we are not advocating military action,” he added.

“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.”

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: “The risks of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons are real.

“Instead of raising the rhetoric, the Government should be focused on redoubling their efforts to increase the diplomatic pressure on Iran and find a peaceful solution to the issue.”

In a Hollywood-style twist, Iran released pictures this week of 3,000 women who are apparently being trained in the Japanese martial art of Ninjutsu in a bid to defend their homeland.

Some 3,000 black-clad female would-be assassins were filmed performing somersaults and high kicks.