Lawmaker presses UK to rule out force against Iran

LONDON Fri Feb 17, 2012 3:14pm EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - A British legislator who fears rising tensions over Iran's nuclear program could spill over into military action is seeking a parliamentary vote on his call for the British government to rule out the use of force against Iran.

John Baron, a member of parliament for Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, has introduced a motion in parliament saying the use of force against Iran would be "wholly counter-productive and would serve only to encourage any development of nuclear weapons."

His motion calls on Britain's coalition government to rule out the use of force against Iran and to reduce tensions by redoubling diplomatic efforts.

Baron's motion will be discussed in a parliamentary debate Monday on Britain's policy toward Iran, where a minister will defend the government's policy.

Baron said Monday's debate, being held at the request of rank-and-file lawmakers, may be the only opportunity to discuss British policy toward Iran before hostilities began.

"The use of force by Israel, or anyone else, would be catastrophic and would reinforce the position of the hardliners within Iran," he said in a statement.

"If Iran has set herself on nuclear weapons, she will not be scared away. If she hasn't, a military strike would encourage her to do so," said Baron, who resigned as his party's health spokesman in 2003 in opposition to the impending Iraq war and also voted against the military operation in Libya last year.

Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful but Britain and other Western nations suspect it wants to develop nuclear weapons.

Britain, one of six countries dealing with Iran over its nuclear policy, has followed a policy of trying to engage Iran in talks on its nuclear program while applying tightening sanctions. It has not ruled out the use of force.

BACKING FOR GOVERNMENT

It is not certain that Baron's motion will be voted on because 22 legislators from all the main parties, including former foreign secretaries Malcolm Rifkind and Margaret Beckett, have put their names to an amendment backing the government's policy on Iran.

Their amendment "recognizes the value of making clear to Iran that all options for addressing the issue remain on the table."

A Foreign Office spokesman said Britain was working for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian dispute.

"But the Foreign Secretary (William Hague) has consistently been clear about the seriousness of the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program and that all options must remain on the table," he said.

Even if Baron's motion was voted on it is highly unlikely to succeed as the government's policy enjoys wide backing but it reveals disquiet among some legislators over growing speculation that Israel or the United States could launch an attack to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

After Iran threatened to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions were imposed on its crude exports over its nuclear ambitions, the United States said it would not allow Iran to block the strait.

Britain also signaled its readiness to use military force if necessary to keep the strait open. A British warship accompanied a U.S. aircraft carrier when it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz last month.

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