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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 September 2005, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Trouble at the UN
On Sunday 18 September 2005 Andrew Marr interviewed Jack Straw MP, Foreign Secretary, from the United Nations in New York

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Jack Straw MP
Jack Straw MP, Foreign Secretary, from the United Nations in New York

ANDREW MARR: Now, as we've been saying, the UN summit has not gone well. Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, was, I have to say, unlike the Americans sitting there listening to a hard-line speech from the new president of Iran, insisting on his right to develop nuclear technology, whatever the West said. I spoke to Mr Straw a little earlier and began by pointing out that the president could not have been more hard-line if he'd tried.

JACK STRAW: This was a disappointing and unhelpful speech by President Ahmadinejad, all the more disappointing given the fact that the E3, that's France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and Xavier Solano, the EU foreign policy representative, have spent much of the last few days in discussions with Iran and with intermediaries like Kofi Annan, explaining that yes we would and we were ready to go the extra mile with the Iranians, notwithstanding their breaking the November Paris agreement and their restarting the facility at Isfahan, the conversion facility at Isfahan, we've done all of that and yet we have to hear this speech.

ANDREW MARR: Foreign Secretary, let's be clear, Iran's offer of more transparency on the nuclear programme is nothing like enough to reassure you or the Americans, is it?

JACK STRAW: Well, look, I mean let's be clear about this, and it's not just about the Europeans and the Americans, this is about what we call the whole of the international community, but there is a board of governors at the International Atomic Energy Agency, which if you like is a mini version of the general assembly of the United Nations - it has 35 or 36 members on it, some key states from around the world, including Russia, China, South Africa, Brazil, India and so on.

This has decided on seven successive occasions, unanimously, that Iran must bring itself into full compliance with its own obligations - which have been there for years and years - for complete transparency under the non-proliferation treaty. So offering to be transparent now is simply saying you're going to be compliant and really accepting that you've not been compliant in the past.

ANDREW MARR: You've put an awful lot of hard work into this, Foreign Secretary - as did the French and the German - a speech this hard-line is a heck of slap across the face for you - do you trust the president now when he says it's all about civil nuclear power and nothing to do with military stuff at all?

JACK STRAW: Well, look, I don't regard it in that way, it was not unexpected, given the position that President Ahmadinejad had taken during the course of the Iranian elections three months ago. But as to whether we trust him, it's not about an issue of personal trust - successive Iranian ministers and presidents, and indeed the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, have said we have no nuclear weapons and we have no intention of gaining nuclear weapons. The problem is not what they say it's that at the moment what they are doing and what has been disclosed, and also what has, we think, not been disclosed, fails properly to add up.

ANDREW MARR: The president says he's going to offer this technology to other Islamic countries, going ahead completely regardless - you've offered him all these carrots and he's not interested in them - he doesn't want your diplomacy, does he?

JACK STRAW: Well, hang on a sec, but I say here's the big question, it's important that people should understand it - Iran has one nuclear power station under construction, a place called Bushehr. The technology is Russian and the Russians are providing the nuclear fuel and they say they'll only run it on their fuel. So the question then arises, to which we've never had a satisfactory answer, why does Iran need to develop this nuclear fuel technology when they don't have any power stations in which it can be used. As to your question, Andy, about the end of the diplomatic road, we'll go on trying here - we've always said this has to be resolved by diplomatic means within international organisations.

ANDREW MARR: We've got this large Shiite population, of course, in the South of Iraq, are you worried about a grand coalition between them and Tehran?

JACK STRAW: I think it's important to separate these issues. I think they're separate in the minds of the Iranian government and they need to be separate for everybody else. Any Iranian government has an interest in a stable Iraq - its neighbour - it doesn't have an interest in fomenting huge trouble, not least because if they leave Iraq to democratic processes, there is bound to be a government which has a majority of people representing the Shiite community.

ANDREW MARR: But after all the bloodshed, we could end up with an Islamic republic in Iraq as well as Iran, is this really the kind of better, happier, stabler Middle East we were promised before the war?

JACK STRAW: If you read, as I have, the Iraqi constitution it is a different constitution from that in Iran because in Iran, although there are indeed Sunni and some Christians, it is overwhelmingly Shia, and it had a particular history over the last century or more.

In Iraq, yes, they in their constitution pay homage to their majority religion of Islam, just as I may say in many countries around Europe we pay homage to our dominant religions of Christianity. But they do provide for clear balance between the Sunni, the Shia and the Kurds, they provide for freedom to practise religions, it does not say that Sharia Islam is the sole source of all law in Iraq.

ANDREW MARR: Finally, Foreign Secretary, we've been told that Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister has been invited to Britain but doesn't want to come because he thinks that as a former general he could be arrested for war crimes. Can you assure him, A that he's welcome, and B that if he arrives at Heathrow he wouldn't simply be arrested and hauled off to jail?

JACK STRAW: I think so, although let me say these are ultimately matters for the courts and not for me. Prime Minister Sharon has been to the United Kingdom on many, many occasions and in the past there have been some people who have been trying to stir up trouble against him but these have not come to fruition and I doubt very much indeed that they would come to fruition again. Moreover he is a serving prime minister in a very different capacity from somebody who had retired from the Israeli army.

ANDREW MARR: Thank you very much indeed Foreign Secretary.

INTERVIEW ENDS


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy


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