UK minister: All options on the table for Iran

Alistair Burt calls the Iranian nuclear program “the major issue at the top of our shared agenda."

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January 11, 2012 02:28
3 minute read.
UK Minister for Mideast, N. Africa Alistair Burt

UK Minister for Mideast, N. Africa Alistair Burt 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The United Kingdom has taken no option off the table for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, a visiting British minister said on Tuesday.

Calling the Iranian nuclear program “the major issue at the top of our shared agenda,” Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt said the program was “clearly not intended for purely peaceful purposes” and vowed that the UK would pursue tougher sanctions in an attempt to derail Tehran’s drive for the bomb.

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Speaking at Bar-Ilan University’s Feldman International Conference Center, Burt said Iran “does not just threaten Israel, it threatens those who would be Israel’s allies in the Gulf and in the Arab world who need Israel as a partner in a common cause against a regime dangerously loose.”

He also emphasized the importance of Israel reaching a diplomatic breakthrough with the Palestinians, arguing that the current situation could not continue.

“It must be clear to the leaders on both sides that the current situation is untenable; the status quo cannot continue, or else it will leave an indelible mark on two great people with enormous potential,” he said.

Burt spoke of visiting the Kalandiya checkpoint to watch how IDF security measures affected Palestinians’ daily lives, as well as the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, where “the effects of the [West Bank security] barrier and the nearby settlement construction are having a detrimental and tragic effect on the lives of the villagers.”

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He also related to matters elsewhere in the Middle East, particularly in light of the Arab Spring – an event especially relevant to his ministry last year. Burt said he understood Israeli fears about the uncertainty of the changing Middle East, but argued that such drastic change highlighted the need for Israel and the Palestinians to take bold steps for peace.

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“If you want stability, if you want security, if you want peace with your neighbors, and the best relations with the rest of the world, then making a peace deal with the Palestinians is urgent. Putting certainty into a region of uncertainty may be the best thing to do,” he said.

He mentioned that there were those in the UK who “delegitimized” Israel, but argued that they were not the population that Israelis needed to worry about; rather, he said, Israel should focus most heavily on those in the center of the British body politic.

“The ones you need to worry about are the ones in the mainstream and the center ground; the ones who used to stand up and support Israel but now stay silent,” he said. “Or the ones who used to be silent but are now critical. Because opinion is shifting [on Israel].”

Burt asserted that such actions were directly related to Israeli actions, saying that “as long as Israel builds across the Green Line, Israel risks losing friends.”

He also referred to the country as a world leader in innovation and research and praised its values and tolerance.

He did, however, add the caveat that “it’s these values that are the best guarantee of Israel’s place in the world, and any corrosion of these values would weaken Israel’s place in the world.”

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