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Britain Says Iran Should Have Civil Nuclear Power


Britain has called for a European outreach program to the Iranian people to support their democratic aspirations and convince them there is no opposition to a peaceful Iranian nuclear power program. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spoke of the initiative in London Monday.

Foreign Secretary Straw has told the International Institute for Strategic Studies that Iran is headed in what he describes as "the wrong direction" under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He spoke as the Iranian nuclear dispute moves to the United Nations Security Council. Straw says he expects any U.N. action will be "incremental and reversible" to allow Iran to resume negotiations on again allowing international supervision of its nuclear program.

Straw says Europe needs to expand Persian-language broadcasting and Internet websites to communicate directly with the Iranian people and overcome the anti-Western message of official Iranian media. "We in Europe need to communicate better with the Iranian people," said the foreign secretary, "and our message is that we want them to enjoy the benefits of civil nuclear power, but on the nuclear dossier we are concerned only by those fuel activities which would allow the regime to acquire a nuclear bomb, and that we support their aspirations for a freer and more democratic and more prosperous future."

The United States has announced an expansion of television broadcasts aimed at Iran, and the Bush Administration is seeking an additional $75 million this year for programming to Iran.

In his speech, Straw played down allegations that the West has a double standard regarding nuclear weapons in the Middle East, tolerating Israel's arsenal on the one hand while at the same time trying to prevent Iran from going nuclear. "When people talk about double standards, let us remember that Israel has never threatened to annihilate Iran or the Iranian people," he said, "but Iran has done so in the other direction, in a wholly unacceptable and gratuitous way."

British foreign policy calls for a nuclear-free Middle East, with the goal of Israel signing the non-proliferation treaty and allowing international inspections. Israel has never officially acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons.

Iran says it does not intend to develop nuclear arms, but it wants nuclear power for peaceful, civilian purposes. The United States and its European allies suspect Iran intends to build bombs under the guise of a civilian nuclear program.

In January, Iran resumed uranium enrichment activities and ended cooperation with the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency.