Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Third Report


Conclusions and recommendations


British-Iranian Relations

1. We conclude that the Government was right to respond to the Reddaway and Soleimanpour affairs with a mixture of firmness and tact, in the interests of not allowing short-term difficulties to jeopardise long-term improvements in the United Kingdom's relations with Iran. (Paragraph 19)

2. We conclude that the Government has been right to maintain and develop its critical dialogue with Iran, and we recommend that it continue this policy, with a view to encouraging further positive changes in Iranian political and civil society. (Paragraph 22)

3. We conclude that good cultural and educational links are especially important with Iran, a country with a strong cultural inheritance and identity of its own but with many misconceptions, even among its most educated classes, of life and society in the United Kingdom. We recommend that the Government give serious consideration to increasing the resources available for Chevening scholarships and other cultural and educational initiatives in Iran, and to ensure that those resources which are available are used to best effect. (Paragraph 27)

4. We conclude that continued co-operation between the United Kingdom and Iran in the war against drugs is important for both countries and we recommend that it remain a priority objective of the bilateral relationship. (Paragraph 28)

5. We conclude that, whatever the short-term difficulties which may afflict the United Kingdom's relations with Iran following the recent flawed elections, the prospects for longer-term improvements in the relationship remain good. We recommend that the Government continue to bear firmly in mind the benefits which good relations between Iran and the United Kingdom can bring to both countries, and that it work towards realising those benefits. (Paragraph 30)

Multilateral issues

6. We further conclude that a renunciation by Iran of violence as a means of achieving Palestinian statehood—and a cessation of all practical and moral support for such violence—could go a long way towards changing the views of those in the West who currently regard Iran as a sponsor of terrorism. (Paragraph 36)

7. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government set out what it and its allies are doing to achieve "a further and more enhanced degree of co-operation with the Iranian Government" in the war against terrorism. (Paragraph 39)

8. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government tell us what is the current extent of support for the terrorist organisation MEK in third countries, and what it is doing to minimise that support. (Paragraph 40)

9. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government inform us of the steps it has taken to encourage Iran to play a positive role in political, social and economic reconstruction in Iraq, and with what results. (Paragraph 42)

10. With specific reference to Iran, we conclude that the lesson to be drawn from the success of the EU troika initiative is that, by acting together with firm resolve the international community has been able to persuade Iran to modify its nuclear policies in ways which will bring benefits to Iran, to its neighbours and to the international community. However, it is important to recall that the agreement was only necessary because Iran had been developing covertly a nuclear threat capability. It is also clear from Iran's failure to declare some aspects of its nuclear programme since the Agreement was signed that continued vigilance will have to be exercised by the IAEA, backed up wherever necessary by intrusive monitoring and effective verification measures. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government set out what steps it is taking to ensure Iran's full compliance with the statements issued by the Iranian Government and the Foreign Ministers of Britain, France and Germany on 21 October 2003 and with the terms of the Additional Protocol to Iran's NPT safeguards agreement, signed on 18 December 2003. (Paragraph 58)

Human rights in Iran

11. We conclude that the recent elections in Iran were a significant and disappointing setback for democracy in that country and for its international relations, at least in the short term. We recommend that the Government take every opportunity through its pronouncements and through its policies to remind Iran of the benefits to its own people and to its standing in the world of upholding democratic values. (Paragraph 66)

12. We conclude that the position of women in Iranian society remains unequal, but that it has been moving in the right direction. We welcome the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Dr Shirin Ebadi. However, we are seriously concerned that Iran has yet to repeal provisions allowing the stoning of women adulterers and we conclude that Iran cannot be fully accepted into the international community while such abhorrent practices remain permitted under its laws. (Paragraph 74)

13. We respect the pre-eminent position of Islam in Iran, but we conclude that Iran's interpretation of the tenets of Islam with regard to those who proselytise or who convert to other faiths is incompatible with its desire to enjoy normal relations with other countries. (Paragraph 80)

14. We conclude that Iran's treatment of its Bahá'í community is not consistent with its human rights obligations under international law. We recommend that the Government continue to press the Iranians to treat members of all religious minorities fairly and equally, while recognising the pre-eminent position which Islam enjoys in Iranian society. (Paragraph 84)

15. We conclude that Iran will surely complete its journey towards reform, but at its own pace and in its own way, having regard to its proud history and strong national identity. We recommend that the Government act as a good friend to Iran in that journey, criticising when necessary, but supporting where it can. (Paragraph 89)


 
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Prepared 19 March 2004