Three former high-ranking US military officers have called for Britain to help defuse the crisis over Iran's nuclear program, saying military action against Teheran would be a disaster for the region.
In a letter to the Sunday Times newspaper, the three former officers urged US President George W. Bush to open talks "without preconditions" with the Iranian government in a bid to find a diplomatic solution.
The signatories were retired Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, a senior military fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation in Washington, D.C.; retired Marine General Joseph P. Hoar, former head of US Central Command; and Vice-Admiral Jack Shanahan, former director of the Center for Defense Information.
They said Britain "has a vital role to play in securing a renewed diplomatic push" and urged British Prime Minister Tony Blair to make it clear he would oppose any military attack on Iran.
The officers said an attack "would have disastrous consequences for security in the region, coalition forces in Iraq and would further exacerbate regional and global tensions."
"The current crisis must be resolved through diplomacy," they said.
Blair's office refused to comment on whether Blair would back military intervention and reiterated the prime minister's support for the UN's response.
"Our position on Iran is clear; we think we need to pursue the route set out by the Security Council and Iran needs to respond to the demands of the international community and respond to demands of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)," said a spokesman for Blair's Downing Street office, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.
Envoys tour Iran nuke site
Iran showed UN surveillance cameras to envoys from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of developing nations during a tour of a nuclear site on Saturday, in a bid to demonstrate openness about its atomic programme.
The six NAM diplomats, accredited to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, visited the site near the central Iranian city of Isfahan that converts uranium ore into feedstock uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas.
About 90 Iranian and foreign journalists were also shown round the site, where employees in white overalls and face masks feed uranium "yellow cake" into a conversion line.
"All these journalists can see and tell the world that Iran's activities are peaceful," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's IAEA envoy, said during the tour.
Soltanieh said the trip showed Iran's "transparency" and pointed out two IAEA cameras to monitor work in a room were UF6 is produced at the site, situated in a barren area southeast of Isfahan and surrounded by anti-aircraft guns.
Asked after the tour if the envoys could say whether Iran's atomic work was peaceful, Cuban Ambassador Norma Goicochea Estenoz told reporters: "(From) the technical point of view, we cannot say anything. I don't think we can give any assessment."
The envoys, who stay in Iran until today, are not due to visit the Natanz uranium enrichment site where UF6 gas is fed into centrifuges to make power plant fuel or, if greatly enriched, material for warheads.
Source: China Daily/Agencies