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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, would not that objection, however difficult, overcome the one real objection that any state in Iran's position might have: that they would be vulnerable to their relationship with the supplying state—in this case, Russia—in a way that the international arrangements would not be?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I understand the point. I have no doubt that, if it were possible to see the technical solutions, everyone would embrace it very rapidly. We must overcome the practical difficulties expressed by the panels of experts, far more specialist than I am—and, perhaps I dare say, most Members of your Lordships' House.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, at no stage did the panel, Kofi Annan or I suggest that all enriched uranium in the world should be deposited with the International Atomic Energy Agency. It is suggested that there should be a system of drawing rights whereby countries that produced enriched uranium would contribute it to the potential of the IAEA and the countries that were in good standing with it should be able to withdraw it. If the noble Lord reflects for one minute, he will notice that that is exactly what the Russian scheme consists of. The Russians are offering to make fuel rods for Iranian reactors, so why is it so impossible to put that under a general international regime?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I accept that that is precisely what the Russians are offering to do, and there may well be more general applicability in the sense of a virtual bank with a number of contributors. I just make the point that the IAEA is still expressing technical reservations about whether it can be done in reality but that does not rule out the idea in any respect.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked how close we thought the Iranians were to constructing a nuclear weapon. I do not want to speculate too much but by the end of the decade is the best advice that we have at the moment. Much of the technical equipment from the Khan research laboratories is plainly in their hands.

The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, asked what we regarded as the next step. I shall put it in context. We must consider the background against which the IAEA special board meeting took place last week. That was the next step to get the agreement of the members of that board and to then take the following step of making the reference to the United Nations. It is not just Iran's 18-year history of concealment and its failure to take steps to give us confidence in its nuclear intentions that have caused disquiet in the international community; as noble Lords have said, it
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is also its approach to the Middle East peace process and to Iraq, its attitude towards terrorism and its human rights record.

We have all been appalled—nauseated—by President Ahmadinejad's denial of the existence of the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of Israel, which my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, described as,

The noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, put the point in terms. Recently, the president met leaders of Islamic Jihad in Damascus while its bombs were killing and injuring civilians in Israel. The noble Lord, Lord Dykes, in a careful and balanced approach, said that it was right and important to describe the harm done to the Iranian people through this kind of demagogic statement.

We have a longstanding concern that groups seeking to undermine the Middle East peace process through violence draw support from inside Iran. We are concerned by its approach to terrorism and the nature of its relationship with Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. We have repeatedly pressed Iran to renounce all support for groups using terror and violence, and to support a solution to the Palestinian question based on the principle of two states living side by side in peace and security. The EU has said that progress in its relations with Iran will depend on action by Iran to deal with those concerns, including its approach to terrorism and its attitude to the Middle East peace process.

Iran has other responsibilities in the region. It is vital that the neighbours of Iraq and Afghanistan feel that, as things develop towards more democratic societies, they can do so also within a framework of peace and security. Iran has given many public undertakings to improve border security, fight terrorism and not to interfere in the internal affairs of Iraq and Afghanistan, and I welcome those commitments. Iran must resist the temptation to interfere in the political stability of its neighbours. We continue to investigate extremist Shia groups in Iraq and their links to Iran. The particular nature of some of the explosive devices used in Iraq against British troops lead us either to Iranian elements or to Lebanese Hezbollah.

Against that background, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, we must respect Iran; we should all make efforts to do so. But, as I am sure everyone accepts, respect cannot cloak the sense that Iran's human rights violations cannot continue. The noble Lord, Lord Clarke, made the point with passion. I have also read Mr Gauke's speech and think that it is an extremely important contribution. Iran's human rights record is grim and deteriorating. The EU has been clear that our relations with Iran can move forward only if Iran takes action to address the EU's human rights concerns. We frequently express those concerns. We are particularly concerned about Iran's treatment of religious minorities, juvenile offenders and political activists.
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The noble Baroness, Lady Gould, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, made the point about violence against women. The words "violation of human rights" hardly encompass what is being done to women in those circumstances. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, it does not help to apply the kind of relativism of talking about these things in a historical sequence. When faults appear in the penal system of the United Kingdom, we do not justify that by referring to Judge Jeffreys's judicial regime. Those are not the right comparisons; there are much more direct standards that are accepted and applied throughout the world—and so they should be.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I was referring, not to Judge Jeffreys in the 17th century, but to the Shah, who preceded the revolution and was supported by us to the hilt.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I still think that that is a rationalisation to set alongside what should be a much more fundamental judgment about proper human rights.

We have emphasised that such human rights abuses—I could go through a long list but I will not—cannot continue. Nor can we continue to see freedom of expression come under increasing attack in Iran, where investigative journalists continue to be imprisoned and censorship of all the main media continues. We are monitoring closely Iran's response to recent strikes.

Let me make a further point about whether Iran feels under great pressure. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked whether it would feel more secure with a non-aggression pact in place. We are aware of no discussion between Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but we are involved with regional security conferences.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, the time allocated for the noble Lord's speech is running to an end. I hope that he will not ignore the point made by many speakers about the de-proscription of the PMOI.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I have not the smallest intention of doing so. I shall turn to that point immediately.

It is clear that there is a range of concerns, and I hope that that will not turn into uncritical enthusiasm for groups opposed to the Iranian regime, particularly those calling for the repeal of proscription currently in place. The MeK, or the PMOI, now tends to describe itself as a democratic party working for human rights, but there has been a history of involvement in terrorism. I have looked at the balance of the information available. In 2001 there were two armed attacks for which it accepted responsibility. It was accused of a further armed attack in June 2002, about which it has said nothing.

Let me bring us right up to date. In an interview with the LA Times in February this year, Maryam Rajavi was asked whether the use of violence was a PMOI option now and answered,
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Some may say that that is ambiguous rather than direct, but noble Lords have provided interesting information about the new disposition of these groups—as they have described it. I am willing to look at this group in particular. Fundamentally, of course, the whole of the question would need to be put to the review commission, although there are regular reviews. That is in the hands of the group itself. If it has things to say about a non-violent trajectory, that must be the way in which it carries it forward.

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