Britain says backs more Iran sanctions if needed: FT

Monday, July 9, 2007; 3:49 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said London will maintain a tough stance against Iran's nuclear ambitions and warned Tehran on Monday it did not "have the right to set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East."

In an interview with the Financial Times, Miliband, who took over as the head of Britain's foreign office under Prime Minister Gordon Brown less than two weeks ago, urged the international community to remain united in dealing with Iran.

The United Nations has demanded Iran suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can make fuel for power stations or material for warheads. Iran has refused to suspend its work and insists its nuclear interests are peaceful.

Miliband did not comment directly on whether military action against Iran was an option, but said: "I think that the whole of the international community wants a non-military diplomatic solution to this problem. I don't think it does any good to speculate any wider than that."

Under its previous prime minister Tony Blair, who handed over power to Brown in late June, Britain played a leading role in Western efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.

Miliband said Britain remained prepared to press ahead with a third United Nations resolution to impose tighter sanctions on Iran, if it was necessary.

Tehran has been hit with two sets of U.N. sanctions for not suspending enrichment work and a third set is being discussed by the veto-wielding members of the Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- plus Germany.

"We are ready to work with our partners on a third resolution," Miliband said. "We think it's very, very important that the international community remains clear and united on this issue."

Miliband said Iran "has every right to be a secure, rich country" but "doesn't have the right to set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East." He said the West had made a "very clear offer" to Tehran which would allow it to develop the civil nuclear power it says it needs.

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