Parliamentary questions: Iran and NPT

Oral Answers to Questions
1 March 2005 : Column 797
The Secretary of State was asked-
1. Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) (Lab): Whether he plans to visit Tehran in the next two months to discuss with the Iranian Government their adherence to international treaties and conventions. [218392]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): I have no immediate plans to visit Tehran. The Government continue to urge Iran to comply with its international obligations. I discussed Iran's responsibilities under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty with Dr. Hassan Rouhani, the secretary-general of Iran's supreme national security council, on 13 December. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Rammell), raised Iranian adherence to international human rights treaties with the Iranian ambassador on 7 February.

Mr. Griffiths: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, although I am disappointed that he is not going to visit Tehran before the general election. I remind him-he well knows this-that the Government's annual human rights report for 2004 shows continuing deterioration in the human rights conditions in Iran. The rights of religious minorities, especially the Baha'i, continue not to be respected.

The United Nations rapporteur's report on freedom of expression from more than a year ago has still not been implemented. The July visit of the UN rapporteur on enforced disappearance had been cancelled and no new time arranged. In 2003 there were more than 100 public executions-

Mr. Speaker: Order. The question is far too long.

Mr. Straw: I wonder if I could correct my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) in one respect:

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there is to be no general election in Iran in the near future, but there will be presidential elections on 17 June. It remains to be seen whether I can get there before then. I am sure that that was what he had in mind.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): Would it not be easier for the Government to persuade the Iranians to go along with them if American troops were not providing protection for the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq terrorist organisation, at Camp Ashraf in Iraq? We should bear in mind that the MKO is a proscribed terrorist organisation with an appalling record of killing individuals in Iran.

Mr. Straw: The MEK is a proscribed organisation; indeed, as Home Secretary I proscribed it in the first batch of proscriptions following the Terrorism Act 2000. There are changes in the position of MEK and I should be happy to brief the hon. Gentleman in detail

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about that. There has been more co-operation, as I think he may have been informed, between the coalition forces in Iraq and the Government of Iran in respect of MEK, which is a nasty terrorist organisation that has to be contained.

4. Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): If he will make a statement on Iran's nuclear programme. [218396]
6. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): If he will make a statement on progress in negotiations with Iran concerning the development of nuclear technologies. [218398]
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): The aim of the work undertaken by the French and German Foreign Ministers and by me, since summer 2003, has been to ensure that Iran's nuclear programmes are for peaceful purposes only. Following the November 2004 Paris agreement, senior officials are now involved in detailed negotiations to pin down objective guarantees about Iran's nuclear activities and in respect of technological and economic co-operation and political and security issues.
Mr. Moore: I am grateful for the Foreign Secretary's statements. Both sides of the House will agree about the undesirability of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. Certainly, we support the diplomatic efforts of the United Kingdom, France and Germany in seeking to prevent that from happening. Is he alarmed, however, that as yet it does not appear that the International Atomic Energy Agency is getting unfettered access to all potential nuclear sites? Does he agree that that must put in jeopardy the closer economic ties that we all want?
Mr. Straw: As I understand it, the access of the IAEA to Iran's nuclear sites has generally been satisfactory, but in some cases it has not been. Iran is required to comply with the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and its own safeguards agreement with the IAEA. It has also signed but not yet ratified the additional
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protocol that requires extra inspections. Whether Iran gives proper access to the IAEA will most certainly be one of the factors that the agency's board of governors will weigh in the balance when it comes to consider its next steps.
Tony Lloyd : May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his role in pushing forward these important talks, as there is no doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a driver of nuclear proliferation throughout the region? However, does he accept that Iran has legitimate security concerns? It has nuclear neighbours within the region and faces a potential conventional threat from those on its own borders. Within that context, would not it make sense to bring together the international community to say that some form of security guarantee was needed for Iran within a stabilised region? Obviously, Iran would have to be a player within that security framework, but security guarantees might help to ease the pressures that Iran itself faces.
Mr. Straw: Iran, like any other nation in the region, has security concerns, but none of its concerns-I am pleased to hear my hon. Friend endorse this-would justify its acquisition of nuclear weapons, which would make the security of the whole region, including Iran, significantly worse, not better. We accept its security interests; security has been one of the aspects of the discussions that have followed the Paris agreement in November and of the discussions that the three Foreign Ministers, including myself, had with Dr. Rouhani in December. But Iran has to take steps itself, and one of the most important that it could take to improve the security of the whole region would be to accept a two-state solution in respect of Israel and Palestine and to acknowledge Israel's right to exist, as required by UN Security Council resolutions.
Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): With the Israelis alleging that the Iranians will have a nuclear weapon within six months, the situation is clearly getting serious. I accept the Foreign Secretary's assertion that verification is key, but does he accept that it is not just the E3 who must be satisfied with verification, but the United States?
Mr. Straw: I have seen these reports, but not their provenance. Our discussions with the Iranians are based on their failure to make disclosures in accordance with their safeguards agreement under the non-proliferation treaty. That has been well recorded, including in a Command Paper that I presented to the House, and is based on suspicions about the dual use of Iran's nuclear activities. There is no concrete evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons; let me make that clear to the House. I accept that in addition to the E3-France, Germany and the United Kingdom-we must involve all the other partner members of the IAEA board of governors, including the Russian Federation, whose Foreign Minister I met this morning, and especially the United States, whose Secretary of State I shall be seeing this afternoon.
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Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend's role, together with his two European counterparts, in the delicate negotiations with Iran over non-proliferation deserve full support. Does he welcome the evidence that the Bush Administration are becoming more supportive? Does he agree that it would be helpful if they considered supporting any positive incentives that Europe might offer to Iran?
Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his opening comments. Let me make it clear that we have worked closely from the very start with the United States Administration, who have a key interest in this issue. The US is a permanent member of the Security Council, as are we, and at each stage it has actively backed the resolutions passed unanimously by the IAEA board of governors. I look forward to the collaboration and co-operation with the US Government in respect of Iran-as in respect of so many other issues-continuing.
Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State accept that the Government will be guilty of double standards if we continue to lecture Iran
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on meeting its obligations under the non-proliferation treaty while failing to meet our own obligations, particularly article 6, under which we are committed to negotiate away-in good faith and at an early date-our nuclear weapons, something we are failing to do?
Mr. Straw: I do not accept what my hon. Friend says; the factual basis of his question is simply wrong. Under article 2 of the non-proliferation treaty, we are allowed to hold nuclear weapons. That applies to all five permanent members of the Security Council as so-called "nuclear weapons states", in contrast to all others, who are categorised under article 4 as "non-nuclear weapons states". Moreover, there is a requirement for gradual but multilateral progress towards full-scale nuclear disarmament. We have taken more steps than any of the other permanent members of the Security Council. We are also involved in constructive discussions on the forthcoming review conference on the non-proliferation treaty.

Signed at Washington, London, and Moscow July 1, 1968
Ratification advised by U.S. Senate March 13, 1969
Ratified by U.S. President November 24, 1969
U.S. ratification deposited at Washington, London, and Moscow March 5, 1970
Proclaimed by U.S. President March 5, 1970
Entered into force March 5, 1970
Here is what NPT Article 2 states: it certainly does not state that the UK “are allowed to hold nuclear weapons.”
Article II
Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

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