Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)



  Q1 Chairman: Good afternoon. Welcome. Thank you for coming along at relatively short notice to see the Committee. We appreciate that, we know you are very busy. Can I begin by asking you whether you are absolutely sure that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapons programme?

  Mr Straw: No, I am not absolutely sure. No-one is absolutely sure. Indeed, I have never suggested that we are absolutely sure. What we are absolutely sure about is that Iran failed to meet its very clear obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That is not a matter of intelligence or a dossier; it is a matter of fact. For 20 years they covered up their nuclear fuel cycle programme; it was only exposed to view when some dissidents leaked the information about it and that was how the Government of Iran ended up before the IAEA Board of Governors. What that showed when the details came out was that Iran had been developing a programme to produce nuclear fuel on a scale which is disproportionate to any known programme they have for nuclear power stations. There is a separate issue about whether a country which is sitting on such huge reserves of oil has an economic interest in a nuclear power station but that is a matter for them in the end because they have a clear right, the same as any other signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to have nuclear power stations if they wish. However, they have very clear obligations not to develop the fuel cycle. That is one element of suspicion, the fact they covered up the scale of the programme, the fact that the only power station currently being built is the one at Bushehr which relies on fuel exclusively from Russia and none of this fuel will go to it. There are no other nuclear power stations I am aware of under construction the Iranians say, although some are at a planning stage. Secondly, there has been research on polonium and plutonium. They were seeking to develop a research heavy water reactor which produces plutonium, not necessarily the best buy if you are generating electricity but an essential buy if you are trying to make hydrogen bombs. Then there is the fact that this manual from AQ Khan, which showed how to produce depleted uranium hemispheres which have a use only in hydrogen bombs and not in nuclear power generation, was unearthed by the IAEA inspectors sometime in the autumn. So you add all that up and it is a case to answer by Iran. Not least because of the decision in September when the Board of Governors formally found Iran in non-compliance, the international community said, "The onus is now on you to disprove you are not using this programme in order to produce nuclear weapons capability".

  Q2  Chairman: But the Iranians say other countries in their region bordering them have developed nuclear weapons—India, Pakistan, Israel—and there are other nuclear weapon states in the world. What would be so difficult about Iran having nuclear weapons?

  Mr Straw: They are right, of course, India, Pakistan and Israel have nuclear weapons programmes. We would wish them not to have those programmes. Those three countries are the only countries of any significance which are not signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We continue a campaign for them to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but that is a separate issue. We have also called for and voted for resolutions in the General Assembly of the United Nations for a nuclear-free Middle East but my response to that is this: let us just deal with the Middle East first of all. There used to be four potential nuclear weapon states in the Middle East. In addition to Iran and Israel there were Iraq and Libya. As a result of action taken by the international community over a 10 year period, Iraq, which had a well developed nuclear weapons programme, no longer has that programme. As a result directly of UK and US intelligence and diplomacy, which went on for many years covertly, and probably as a result of the action we were firmly taking in respect of Iraq, the Libyan Government agreed to abandon their nuclear weapons programme which was at a greater stage of development and on a larger scale than we had anticipated. They began to do that in December 2003 and the process has continued. Of the four countries, we are down to two with nuclear weapons potential in the Middle East. Iran has signed up solemnly to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and as a non-nuclear weapons state they have rights to develop nuclear power under Article IV but they have obligations not to do anything in the way in which they develop a nuclear power capability which could lead to the development of a nuclear weapons capability. Let me make this clear—I have made it clear time and time again—Iran has every right to nuclear power stations. The regime is claiming to their own people that what we are seeking to do is to stop them developing nuclear power plants, which is palpably untrue. As I pointed out to the Iranian media just this morning, Brazil has nuclear power plants and a fuel cycle and no-one is seeking to stop them because there is no question about Brazil's intentions being other than for peaceful purposes. The problem about Iran is its intentions. If you want to see a nuclear-free Middle East and then in time get back to a situation where there are no nuclear weapon states, you need to start in the Middle East. I say to the Iranians, as I said to their media this morning, the worst way of achieving peace and security in the Middle East is to have Iran developing a nuclear weapon, or leading to that suspicion, because that will then lead to other states in the region almost certainly developing their own nuclear weapons. I cannot speak for them but I offer this speculation: some of the larger Arab states would not stand idly by for a second if they thought that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon. If we are going to get to a situation where we can effectively say to the Israelis, "Sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, become a non-nuclear weapons state", then we have to remove the very profound risks which that country faces to its very existence from Iran. Israel has run some controversial policies but Israel has never threatened the existence of any other state in the region. Israel has never said of Iran it wants to wipe Iran off the face of the map; Iran, of course, has said that of Israel.

  Q3  Mr Hamilton: That is a good lead-in to what I wanted to ask, Foreign Secretary. We have heard President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on many occasions say he wants to wipe Israel from the face of the map or see Israel completely destroyed. Should we not be far more worried than we seem to be about the prospect of Iran's nuclear weapon being developed, especially in the light of the fact that we know from media reports that they have the delivery systems capable of delivering a nuclear warhead into the heart of Israel?

  Mr Straw: The whole world is worried about this. I would not have spent more time and effort on the Iran dossier than any other since the Iraq war were I not deeply concerned about this threat and the threat that it poses to international peace and security. Increasingly, there is a wide international consensus which shares our opinions. The vote in the IAEA Board of Governors on Saturday just gone should give the Iranian Government very strong pause for thought because until last September the votes were either unanimous, because they were kind of milk and water resolutions, or in September we won a vote but with 22 out of 35 with the rest abstaining, apart from Venezuela that voted against, but we did not have any significant countries apart from India from the Non-aligned Movement on board, nor Russia or China. This vote, 27 out of 35, notwithstanding the fact it was a more difficult composition, it had changed, had three against: Venezuela, Cuba and Syria. A number abstained but the 27 who voted in favour included India, China, Russia, Brazil, Sri Lanka, the Yemen and Egypt. It was a tough resolution. Of course we are worried about it, the question is what do we do about it. I think the strategy we are adopting is the right one. I just repeat what we have is a high level of suspicion, we do not have absolute proof and I am conscious of the fact, not least because of the experience in respect of Iraq, that we have to be very precise about what we are claiming.

  Q4  Mr Hamilton: Can I just move away slightly from the nuclear issue but still concentrate on Iran's desire to see the eradication of Israel. Do you have any evidence that Iran is funding Hamas both with money and with arms that are coming out of Iran to the Palestinian Territories? If so, what are we doing about it?

  Mr Straw: We have a well-founded belief that Iran is funding Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and has strong connections with them. We believe they are also funding Hamas as well although it appears that a good deal of the funds for Hamas comes from around the Arab world.

  Q5  Mr Hamilton: Hamas has the same stated intention of destroying Israel.

  Mr Straw: I understand that. Certainly there is political support for Hamas and that is reflected also in statements by President Ahmadinejad. Can I just say that one of the problems of dealing with Iran is that this position which President Ahmadinejad articulated in such a dreadful way is a longstanding one of the post-revolutionary republic. At one of my meetings with President Khatami, who genuinely was a moderate, I said to him when he was talking about Israel that it would help if, number one, they recognised the rest of the world thought a two-state solution was appropriate and, number two, if he as president of this republic ordered that the Shahab 2 missiles should not have painted on their side in English "Death to Israel" when they were paraded in the national parade each year. I was received with a shrug.

  Q6  Mr Hamilton: One final question. In response to the controversy over the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the Iranians have said, and they repeated their views about the Holocaust and Holocaust denial, we know about that, not only are they going to publish cartoons in one of the newspapers, or at least this newspaper is going to publish a cartoon which makes fun of the Holocaust, and okay that is Iranian free speech if you like, but I understand the Iranians are going to hold a conference about whether the Holocaust ever happened or not. Is there anything we can do about that or is that just a matter for the Iranians to—

  Mr Straw: I would encourage people not to attend and to boycott it because it is a revolting idea. It is as revolting an idea as if those who oppose the way Iran behaves were to say that the million plus people who were killed by the Iraqis during the war against Iran, in which Iran was the unprovoked victim, were never killed. I think we have to put it in language which most Iranians would readily sympathise with.

  Q7  Sir John Stanley: Foreign Secretary, the Sunday Times on 29 January began its extensive piece on Iran's nuclear options as follows: "The drab compound that houses the Iranian Embassy in Pyongyang is the focus of intense scrutiny by diplomats and intelligence services who believe that North Korea is negotiating to sell the Iranians plutonium from its newly enlarged stockpile, a sale that would hand Tehran a rapid route to the atomic bomb." Do you give any credence to the reports that have been extensive that negotiations are under way between Iran and North Korea for a plutonium transfer between the two countries and, if so, what steps are the British Government taking to try to ensure that does not happen?

  Mr Straw: I have seen the reports but there is no publicly available evidence to corroborate them.

  Q8  Sir John Stanley: I would not expect there to be much publicly available evidence. Do you give the reports any credence, Foreign Secretary?

  Mr Straw: Let us leave it there, thank you.

  Q9  Sir John Stanley: Can we be assured in this Committee that the British Government and others are taking all possible steps to ensure that such a transfer does not take place?

  Mr Straw: You can indeed. We are alive to all reports of transfers of such material which are against international conventions.

  Q10  Mr Purchase: Foreign Secretary, the balance of fear, mutual destruction, all those phrases were used in the post-war period when Britain, America, France and Russia held nuclear weapons as a matter of course. It was said by many to have given us a peace in those years. Why would it not do the same in the Middle East given that Israel already is a nuclear power and Pakistan has been mentioned, India? Why not Iran? We hear all the rhetoric I know.

  Mr Straw: It is an important question to answer. Let me offer you an answer. It is this: the more states that have nuclear weapons and the less the behaviour of those states is constrained by international laws and obligations, the greater the likelihood is that there will be either by accident or by design a nuclear war. If you were identifying countries who fitted the category of being undesirable candidates to hold nuclear weapons, Iran would be quite near the top of the list. Let us be clear about this, if I may, Mr Purchase. While it is easy to make points that the Permanent 5 have got nuclear weapons, the Permanent 5 have nuclear weapons in historical circumstances we all know about but by international agreement, and that was the purpose of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. President Kennedy and others said in the early 1960s that if the world carried on this arms race it could by the turn of the century just gone, end up with 20-30 countries with nuclear weapons and who knows what would be the consequences. That was the political origin of what became the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It was a deal between the so-called nuclear weapon states, the P5, and all others by which everybody agreed that there would be no more nuclear weapon states. In return for that, the non-nuclear weapon states would have this very clear right—it is not an unqualified right—to develop nuclear power and in certain circumstances nuclear weapon states would be able to ensure the availability of civil nuclear technology to the non-nuclear weapon states. Meanwhile, the nuclear weapon states were under an obligation to reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons. We, in this country, have got a better record than any of the other nuclear weapon states. We have reduced the number of weapon systems from three to one. We were in the forefront of trying to secure a constructive outcome to the Review Conference which took place in May of last year. I regret that no such outcome was possible but it was not for the want of trying by us. The last point I would make is this: this time four years ago there was a mobilisation on either side of the line of control in Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Those two countries came very, very close to nuclear war. I know because I was shuttling backwards and forwards between Islamabad and Delhi at the time. Thankfully, both of them backed away but what was shocking was that neither had a developed nuclear doctrine. Neither had worked out clearly the circumstances in which nuclear weapons could be deployed. Neither knew properly the nature of fallout. Although, thanks to statesmanship on both sides, they backed away from a conventional war, an accident or a misjudgment could have happened and we would not be sitting here with any kind of complacent suggestion that you have the more the merrier. What I want to see is the fewer the better and that is the purpose of our policy.

  Q11  Mr Purchase: Thank you for that because I also would like to see the fewer the better but the International Strategic Studies organisation believes that Iran could, in fact, become a nuclear power by the end of the decade. Simultaneously we will probably be renewing our programme of Polaris. Is it a bit awkward for you in diplomatic circles that these two events seem to be happening simultaneously?

  Mr Straw: No, it is not, as a matter of fact. I will set out the context in which it is taking place. What we want to see is a world where there are no nuclear weapons but there is a very big difference between the highly regulated circumstances in which the P5 hold their nuclear weapons by agreement with all the other non-nuclear weapon states, and states like North Korea or Iran which choose to misuse—these are poor countries—their resources that serve no particular strategic purposes we think to develop nuclear weapon systems. It is not going to make the world a safer place. What will make the world a safer place is the policy which we and to some degree the other members of the P5 have been pursuing, which is a gradual reduction in reliance on nuclear weapon systems. Mr Purchase, what you are running into is the argument whether in the special circumstances of P5 we should unilaterally disarm. I do not happen to take that view. I do happen to believe that we should use every effort to reduce the arsenals of all members of the P5 and we do accept that.

  Chairman: Can we get back to the process that is going on now.

  Q12  Mr Illsley: Foreign Secretary, a few moments ago in response to my colleague you said the resolution passed over the weekend was a tough resolution and it was the right thing to do. In reality, do you really have any confidence in the UN process which is underway in Iran at the present time as a result of that?

  Mr Straw: I do. First of all, what I hope may happen is even at this stage it may encourage the Iranian Government to recognise that their future lies in the kind of path that we proposed to them and the previous administration were following, and even they were proposing to follow as late as December when they said to the Russians they were not going to break the seals on their enrichment processes. Secondly, I do not think anybody should underestimate the effect the authority of the Security Council can have. The question I ask is if the Security Council means nothing at all, why did the Iranian Government go to huge lengths, astonishing lengths, to lobby every single member of the Board of Governors they could find against this resolution? Why did they imply to many of these states that they would lose contracts in terms of oil? There were all sorts of insinuations made in order that this matter could not get before the Security Council. My answer to that is they are worried about being isolated and being before the court of world opinion. The last point I make on this is if you look at what has happened with Syria following the passage of 1559 and 1595, Syria is an incredibly difficult country to deal with, almost as difficult as Iran, nothing else has been decided in those resolutions but because of the pressure of Security Council resolutions Syria has by stages had to come into compliance with those resolutions, they have had to withdraw the whole of their army from the Lebanon, they have had to comply and co-operate with the Investigatory Commission and many other things. I do not ignore the authority of the Security Council.

  Q13  Mr Illsley: I hope that you are right, but some Members of the Committee had a discussion a couple of weeks ago with Mohammed ElBaradei about referral to the Security Council and whether that was the right way to go. I know the resolution was only to report. We had a discussion as to whether that would be productive or counterproductive in that once it is referred to the Security Council there is nowhere else to go other than through sanctions or some other action. If you have confidence in what is going on, why did the European Union ask ElBaradei to report prior to the February meeting?

  Mr Straw: Why?

  Q14  Mr Illsley: Why did the European Union ask him to produce a report in advance of the February meeting? Was there any reason for that? He gave the impression that perhaps the European Union wanted a more speedy process.

  Mr Straw: We are a little impatient. These negotiations started actively in October 2003, which was a long time ago, and what is frustrating about it is that with the previous administration we were getting close to a serious long-term deal which was the one we proposed to the Government of Iran in early August of last year. There was discussion with Mohammed ElBaradei. Let me say that I know him well, I have got the highest regard for him and I have talked to him in very great detail about this, including two weeks ago before this process of discussions took place, and also to Kofi Annan. In drafting this resolution—it is ours, not his—we took account of his views, which is why in operational paragraph two the DG report required these steps of Iran to the Security Council and in paragraph eight effectively we wait until the large board. That was where we wanted to come out. That followed a late night dinner that I chaired in Carlton Gardens two Mondays ago—it was only a week ago, nine days ago, it seems like two years ago—with the Permanent 5 members of the Security Council in Germany where we agreed the approach reflected in this resolution.

  Q15  Sandra Osborne: The resolution is a strong resolution but it does fall short of formal referral to the Security Council and obviously a consideration of sanctions, but it does commit to continuing the diplomatic effort. If there was a need to take stronger steps, how likely is it that there would be an international consensus on that? Is it the case that the international community is divided on what to do about Iran and Iran is well aware of that?

  Mr Straw: The Prime Minister said yesterday, in answer to your Chairman, one step at a time, which is a hymn which I also think of as wise advice. There are available to the Security Council, as you will be aware, non-military sanctions under Article 41 and everybody knows what those are and how they have been used in the past. I do not want to anticipate decisions that the Security Council might or might not make in respect of sanctions except to say that it does not follow at all that just because the matter is considered subject to a resolution in the Security Council there have to be sanctions as well. What we have sought to do in having this dossier is to follow a very careful stage by stage approach. On the issue of a consensus, it is always possible there will be disagreements in the Security Council but I think they are unlikely for this reason: I do not believe the Russian Federation, China and other members of the Security Council would have voted for this resolution if when the matter got to the Security Council Russia and China, for example, were going to veto proposals that were put forward in a sensible way by France and the United Kingdom as the European members of the Council. I think the Iranians throughout this case have miscalculated the reaction of the international community. One of the attractions for them of the E3 process, of one country—Iran—negotiating with three countries on the other side of the table, was that they thought they could split the United Kingdom from France and Germany. They have comprehensively failed to do that. I think they then calculated that when push came to shove they would be able to ensure that China and Russia remained detached from the E3 and the United States. China and Russia showed on Saturday that was simply not the case. It would be an error by Iran to rely on divisions in the international community. The recent history of this has been that the international community is becoming more and more united. One of the things that have added to its unity is a strong sense of revulsion at President Ahmadinejad's remarks about the State of Israel, the Holocaust and much else.

  Q16  Richard Younger-Ross: In resolving any situation it is a matter of both pressure and patience. I heard a Member of this House, sadly, who seemed to have very little patience with the situation and was implying more rapid pressure in another committee earlier today. Could you give us some outline of the timescale in which decisions have to be made? Can you tell us what your perception of the US position is in terms of that timescale? Are they really tied into the idea that we need to be patient on this matter in terms of resolving it? As I say, governments come and governments go and the Government of Iran may be there today but it may not be there tomorrow.

  Mr Straw: I cannot give you an exact timescale, it is not possible.

  Q17  Richard Younger-Ross: Ballpark?

  Mr Straw: I will have to be trite: we are going to stick it out for as long as it takes. I was not anticipating when Joschka Fischer, Dominique de Villepin and I agreed this approach in the summer of 2003 that it would become an even more active dossier getting on for three years later, nor did anybody anticipate that the results of the General Election in Iran last June would be the election of Mr Ahmadinejad who was at that stage a rather obscure Mayor of Tehran. There is a process but I think it would be unwise to put particular times to it, except to say that Iran needs to understand that the international community and the E3 will be preoccupied with this issue as long as the suspicions about their programme remain where they are and they have failed to provide the objective guarantees which the Government of Iran promised they would provide that their programme is solely for peaceful purposes. That is the first thing. The second thing on the United States is that it is fair to say the United States initially were sceptical about this E3 process. They understood that in the aftermath of the Iraq war the architecture of diplomacy of the E3 made sense but there was worry in the United States—to go back to a previous point—that the Iranians would pick off France and Germany from the United Kingdom. I am happy to say that has not been the case from day one and the Iranians understood that in the early key negotiations we had on 20 October 2003. Since then, I think it is fair to say, the United States Government's confidence in the E3 process has increased. There has been more and more active co-operation between the E3 and the Government of the United States. This led to some key confidence building measures being offered by the United States Government through me in negotiations which took place in Geneva at the end of May last year where we were quite close to the final stages of a deal where we agreed to produce these proposals which could easily have led to a deal had there not been a change of government. The United States Government—Condoleezza Rice—authorised me, subject to what the Iranians were doing in return, to make two really important concessions by the United States. One was that the US Government would lift its block on access by the Iranian Government to World Trade Organisation negotiations. The second was it would lift its block on access by the Iranians to American spare parts for Iranian aircraft. One reason why Iranian aircraft are amongst the most unsafe in the world is because they cannot get access to these spare parts. The US was happy to co-operate with that and also send out a message that a lot more could be on offer in return for moves by the Government of Iran. Just to repeat a point; Condoleezza Rice played a very important a part in the dinner that I chaired nine days ago.

  Q18  Mr Keetch: Foreign Secretary, I think you should be congratulated sincerely for the work that you did on the E3 because it demonstrates that Europe can work together on a huge important issue in a very sensible way and I am sure the support that we got in the IAEA was only because of the work that the E3 had done in the run-up to that. Just developing what my colleague was saying about the United States. You rightly said that there have been some calls in the US for a different approach. Do you feel now that the processes of the E3 and the United States have converged together and we are on the same track, as it were, in diplomacy? In terms of what President Bush said in his State of the Union address, he specifically made the point that he wanted his nation to be the closest of friends with "a free and democratic Iran". Clearly Iran is not free and democratic in the same way that the United States is, but do you actually believe that President Ahmadinejad speaks for most of the Iranian people when he wants to pursue this nuclear programme?

  Mr Straw: First of all, thanks for the congratulations, it was very nice of you. I said in the House yesterday that one of the things I think has helped on this issue is the fact that there is very broad backing, all-party backing, to what we have been seen to do on this, and I will do my best to ensure this continues. Secondly, it is a very good illustration of operational European foreign policy. The fact that it has been led by the three largest countries in the EU has been an essential part of that. I should also say, however, that Javier Solana, the High Representative on foreign policy, has played an increasingly important role in this and so has his staff. You asked whether we are completely knitted up with the United States, yes and no is the answer. They have been very co-operative and supportive. I cannot say what approach they would have adopted if they had been negotiating but the truth is they could not have been negotiating because they do not have diplomatic relations with Iran. Their history with Iran is much more fractured than is Europe's. It has been difficult in Europe, if you think of the problems we have had and of the problems that Germany has had particularly, but we have all had relations for quite a long history. None of us have had the equivalent of the 444 day siege which humiliated an American President, some say that led to his demise, and all that has gone on since then. Nor do we in Europe have the same kind of very vocal and vociferous Iranian Diaspora that the American Government has to cope with. There is that difference. On the question is Iran free and democratic, Iran is not free and democratic by customary norms and this is not the occasion to discuss this but their human rights record is lamentable and we chart this in our annual Human Rights Report. Iran is a very complicated society. It is replete with ambiguity, indeed their literature celebrates ambiguity. Aspects of it appear to be democratic and certainly responsive to public opinion, aspects of it are very autocratic. One of our officials, who knows Iran very well, described it as a pluralist theocracy with some pressure towards democracy but some pressure away from it, and I think that is probably the best way of describing it. Essentially what you have got is a series of democratic institutions, including the presidency and Majlis, the parliament, paralleled by a series of undemocratic institutions which are appointed, which are the guardian council, council of ecclesiastical experts, the supreme leader and this expediency council which is there to negotiate in-between. For the position of these undemocratic bodies read the position of the divine right of kings before the glorious revolution in 1688 or the situation we would face where the Bishops in the House of Lords had the power to overrule the elected House of Commons. In that circumstance it would not be that the House of Commons had no power but it would sometimes be frustrating. You asked also whether President Ahmadinejad is articulating a widespread desire by the Iranian people for a nuclear programme. He is when it comes to a nuclear power programme. It would be an error by everybody else if it was thought that it is unpopular in Iran for Iranian governments not to have an aspiration of a nuclear power programme, it is popular, and it is popular with opponents of the regime as much as it is with supporters of the regime, let us be clear about that. Of course, President Ahmadinejad is playing on the suggestion—completely wrong—that we are trying to stop Iran developing a civil nuclear power programme because he is aware of that aspiration. If I may detain the Committee for a moment, Chairman, you have got to understand how isolated Iran feels in that Iran is not an Arab state, it may be Muslim but just as in Europe there were religious wars between Catholics and Protestants, and one in our country over decades, centuries, so the fact they are Muslim does not mean that they have been immune from conflict between these states, internal conflicts over many decades, not least the Iran-Iraq war. Secondly, Iran feels over the last 100 years it has been humiliated by great powers, by the United Kingdom. There was this constitutional revolution in 1906 and in 1908 we came along backing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and ensured that we got the lion's share of oil revenues and that went on for decades. We supported the Shah in what amounted to a takeover of that country and did not do anything when he implemented very crude anti-Islamic policies, including making it a criminal offence for women to wear even the hijab, the headscarf, on the street. We and the Soviet Union occupied the country for five years in the north from 1941-46 and then elements of British intelligence and the CIA stopped a perfectly democratic prime minister, Mossadeq, from office and failed to see the signs of the decadence of the Shah's regime and many Western countries, actually less so the United Kingdom and some continental countries, actively supported Iran in the Iran-Iraq war. You have got to see it from their point of view and if we do not see it from their point of view as well we will make mistakes in the way we handle this. As to whether there is widespread support for a nuclear weapon programme, that we do not know because the Iranian Government consistently say that they do not want it and have no intention of having a nuclear weapon programme.

  Q19  Mr Heathcoat-Amory: Is it a consequence of the Iraq war that it sends out the message, "if you want to behave badly internationally first get your nuclear weapon"?

  Mr Straw: Of the Iraq war, certainly not.

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