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The West should not rule out the use of military force against Iran, William Hague, the British Conservative party's shadow foreign secretary, said this week.
In an address to the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House) outlining the foreign policy the Conservatives would follow if they oust Labor, he called for "peaceful pressure" and tough financial sanctions against the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to help end Teheran's nuclear ambitions.
"In years to come, we may look back on the next few months as a crucial time in which the international community showed, or failed to show, its resolve," Hague said.
"If Iran proceeds with the development of nuclear enrichment and then the production of a nuclear bomb... it is highly likely that other nations in the Middle East would follow suit. The dangers we... face in future decades would multiply rapidly," he added.
"Iranian persistence in its nuclear activities will be disastrous for Middle Eastern and world affairs," Hague said. "The pressure placed on Iran [to halt its nuclear activities] should be multilateral, legitimate and peaceful. But unless it is intensified, the opportunity to change its policy may be lost."
For the first time in a decade the Conservative party looks set to return to power in the next elections. Hague, a former party leader, would likely be named foreign secretary.
Hague said the UK's Middle East policies and stance toward Israel would see a change in emphasis under the Conservatives. The next British government "must come to office steeped in knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs," he said, and would "focus much increased attention on the many friendly nations of the Middle East."