Last Updated: Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:41 am (KSA) 07:41 am (GMT)

UK’s Hague fears Iran nuke ambitions could trigger new Cold War

Iran says its uranium enrichment programme is purely for civilian purposes, but Western powers suspect Tehran is trying to develop the ability to produce nuclear weapons. (AFP)
Iran says its uranium enrichment programme is purely for civilian purposes, but Western powers suspect Tehran is trying to develop the ability to produce nuclear weapons. (AFP)

Iran’s nuclear ambitions could trigger “a new Cold War” more perilous than that between the West and the Soviet Union, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in an interview published on Saturday.

Hague said Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb would spark an atomic arms race between rival Middle Eastern nations that could be more dangerous than the original Cold War because the old “safety mechanisms” are missing.

“If (the Iranians) obtain nuclear weapons capability, then I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons,” he told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“The most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented would have begun with all the destabilizing effects in the Middle East,” he continued.

“And the threat of a new Cold War in the Middle East without necessarily all the safety mechanisms... would be a disaster in world affairs.”

Iran faces four sets of U.N. sanctions and a raft of unilateral U.S. and EU sanctions designed to halt a program the West fears conceals a drive for nuclear weapons.

Tehran denies this charge, saying its nuclear project is for purely peaceful purposes.

Western powers have been pressing Tehran to hold substantive talks on its nuclear program and want it to halt its uranium enrichment, but Iran says it has an absolute right to press ahead with its plans.

In response to feverish speculation in recent weeks that Israel is preparing to mount a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program, Hague said Iran being “attacked militarily” would have “enormous downsides”.

“We are very clear to all concerned that we are not advocating military action,” he told the Telegraph.

“We support a twin-track strategy of sanctions and pressure and negotiations on the other hand.”

“We are not favoring the idea of anybody attacking Iran at the moment,” he added.”

Earlier Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton voiced cautious optimism about the prospect for Iran to return to stalled nuclear talks with six world powers.

In a February 14 letter to Ashton, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said Tehran is ready to resume talks at the “earliest” opportunity as long as the six powers respect its right to peaceful atomic energy.

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