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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 January 2006, 16:44 GMT
Straw pursues Iran conciliation
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

The UK foreign secretary has said that talks aimed at resolving a dispute over Iran's nuclear programme must allow Iran to maintain its national dignity.

"We must have a bargain which enables both sides to come out of it with their head held high," Jack Straw said.

He was speaking in a seminar at the World Economic Forum in Davos, after talks with IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei.

The US, UK, Germany and France want Iran to be referred to the UN Security Council for censure over its programme.

Iran Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said such a move would put an end to Iran's "voluntary" co-operation with the IAEA.

Mr Mottaki told a news conference Tehran wanted more countries to be involved in a Russian plan for Iran's nuclear enrichment to be performed in Russia.

No countries have been mentioned, but the comment comes after Mr Mottaki's visit to China - another veto-wielding power at the UN.

If Iran can draw China into the Russian process of negotiating or resume talks with Europe, then it will give Tehran more time, reports the BBC's Frances Harrison from the Iranian capital.

Threat of force

Western countries have been alarmed by Iran's decision to resume nuclear production, fearing that it is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles, who is attending the forum in Davos, Switzerland, says their desire for immediate action is not shared by Mr ElBaradei.

We have to keep the military option as the last option but not take it off the table, otherwise I am not sure how we have any significant leverage
US Senator John McCain

Iran insists the programme is solely aimed at meeting its energy needs.

Washington, Israel and many European powers distrust Iran, partly because it had kept its nuclear enrichment research secret for 18 years before it was revealed in 2002.

Mr Straw has repeatedly said that the crisis must be resolved through diplomatic not military means.

"It's hard going. It is hard to think of another government which is harder to negotiate with," Mr Straw said in Davos, but "it is the only way through".

However, Republican US Senator John McCain, also attending the World Economic Forum, said that the threat of military action should be retained as a last resort.

"We have to keep the military option as the last option but not take it off the table," Mr McCain said. "Otherwise I am not sure how we have any significant leverage."


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