Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned of the “deeply alarming” implications of Iran developing nuclear weapons.
Speaking to the Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday morning, he said that Iran had defied international opinion as part of “a wider pattern of behaviour”.
“Whatever our arguments about the evidence, Iran has sought to conceal aspects of its nuclear programme. It has embarked on uranium enrichment on a scale that is incompatible with any peaceful use that it may have.”
Hague made clear that he was not saying Iran already had nuclear weapons. However he feared that the “accumulation” of research suggested that “it may well be something they have in mind”. He expressed concerns that Iran may build up sufficient resources so they can suddenly defy agreements to not make nuclear weapons.
“We cannot wait or do nothing on a sanctions front while awaiting the moment when Iran has put itself in a position for a rapid breakout of the NPT” he added,
The Foreign Secretary robustly defended the UK’s diplomatic stance towards Iran. He said that sanctions were been important, insisting the U.K had sought to offer Iran “a fresh opportunity for Iran to come to these negotiations without preconditions so that the negotiations are meaningless”.
The UK has been open to offering “positive assistance to Iran on civil and nuclear power, if they can clearly demonstrate [to the UK] that their nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes”, according to Hague.
“Our efforts have been 100% devoted to a peaceful solution. I don’t think opportunities were missed by the UK on this to better relations with Iran” he said.
The Foreign Secretary also told MPs that the U.K would give "practical support" to opposition forces in Syria. "I don't rule out giving more non lethal help [to opposition groups]" he said.
He lamented that Russia and China were "paying the price" among the Arab world for their position towards Assad regime.
Hague was also interrogated by MPs on developments in the Eurozone. Following last year’s “veto” on a European fiscal compact. The foreign secretary dismissed claims that UK had been left worse off in a “two tier Europe”. He told MPs that the U.K was right to have not agreed to the treaty:
“It puts us in a different mainstream. It’s an enormous relief that we’re not in the eurozone. [The veto] doesn’t leave us outside of anything that we want to be in.
The forecasts for this year are better for this country than the Euro-zone as a whole. If that is what it means to be outside of the mainstream, let’s be thankful for that situation”.
UK relations with other countries have not been damaged by the veto, Hague claimed. He remarked “many countries have expressed a renewed determination on working with us”. He went on to say:
“Having travelled so far to 5 continents and many different countries, I can confidently say that not a single foreign minister has ever asked me anything about the December European council meeting.”