UK's Foreign Secretary: Iran nuclear issue to grow more urgent

UK's Foreign Secretary: Iran nuclear issue to grow more urgent

Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct. 19 /Trend/

Tackling Iran's nuclear program will become more urgent over the next year and the world must not be distracted from it by the focus on the Arab Spring popular uprisings, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

Hague said U.S. allegations of an Iranian-linked plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington were separate from the dispute over Western suspicions Iran is covertly trying to develop atom bombs and would not stop efforts to resolve it.

But he said Britain would seek to "step up the pressure" on the Islamic Republic, which already faces extensive sanctions, if it did not change its nuclear policy.

"I think this issue will become more urgent over the next year," Hague said in an interview with Reuters shortly before arriving in Mauritania on the latest leg of a tour of North and West Africa also taking him to Libya, Morocco and Algeria.

Iran's refusal to abandon its nuclear activities has resulted in resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council in 2010, as well as additional unilateral sanctions approved by the U.S. Congress and the foreign ministers of all EU countries, which were primarily directed against the banking, financial and energy sectors of Iran.

This was because Iran had stepped up its nuclear work by increasing the fissile content of its enriched uranium to the 20 percent level and moving centrifuge machines to a previously secret underground bunker near Qom, he said.

"We must not be distracted from it by the momentous events of the Arab Spring. We must not ignore the steadily more urgent threat of Iran's nuclear program," Hague said.

In June, Head of Iran' Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani said that Iran is going to install 164-centrifuge cascades of new generation soon both in Fordo and Natanz nuclear facilities and to triple the production of 20-percent enriched uranium.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said a nuclear fuel plate production center will be launched at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) and tested within five months.

So far, Iran has domestically produced 70 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium, Salehi proceeded to say.

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog (IAEA) is expected to raise international pressure on Iran with a report next month that is likely to heighten suspicions about the Islamic state's atomic ambitions, Western diplomats say.

"I don't know what it (the report) will say, but our view is that the Iranian behavior is not consistent with a peaceful nuclear program," Hague said.

Asked if the IAEA report would lead to further sanctions against Iran, Hague said: "We will want to step up the pressure on Iran if Iranian policy does not change. It may be that this report will help to concentrate minds in other countries on that."

U.S. allegations of an Iranian-linked conspiracy to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington would not make it harder to resume negotiations between six world powers and Iran over its nuclear program, Hague said.

The plot accusations were separate from the nuclear issue but "they don't help the atmosphere of our relations."

Last week, the U.S. authorities said they had broken up plans by two men linked to Iranian Quds Force - a special unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) - to assassinate Saudi Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir.

Iran denies the allegations saying the U.S. uses this tactic to slander again Iran. The IRGC also rejected any involvement of the Quds force in the plot alleged by the United States.

British concerns on other subjects "do not prevent us from trying to settle the nuclear issue. On that we will maintain the twin-track approach of attempting negotiations but also implementing sanctions and over time intensifying sanctions," Hague said.

He noted that there was "always hope" of a resumption of nuclear talks with Iran but no immediate movement on it.

The last round of negotiations on Iran's nuclear program took place in January 2011 in Istanbul.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who represented at the talks the "six" (five permanent Security Council members - Britain, China, Russia, USA, France plus Germany), stressed the talks ended without result.

Ashton said that Iranian officials made "unrealistic" demands in the negotiations - lifting of UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic and the agreement under which Iran would continue its research in the field of nuclear energy.

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