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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 May 2006, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Beckett 'flying by seat of pants'
Margaret Beckett
Mrs Beckett says she is used to being thrown in at the deep end
UK foreign secretary Margaret Beckett has said she is "flying by the seat of my pants" in her new job.

She said "it would have been nice" to have had a few more days in the post before flying to New York for UN talks about Iran, but added: "That's life."

Mrs Beckett, who was environment secretary until last week's Cabinet reshuffle, said she was used to being thrown in at the deep end.

"When I went to DEFRA I was asked to bring to an end foot and mouth."

I remember thinking this is going to be a lot of work...This is familiar territory
Margaret Beckett

Mrs Beckett spoke as she was in the US for meetings with foreign ministers from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany to discuss a response to Iran's nuclear programme.

"When I went to DEFRA (the ministry covering the environment, agriculture and rural affairs), I was asked to set up a new department and bring to an end the foot and mouth epidemic," she said.

"I remember thinking this is going to be a lot of work. Within a month I found myself negotiating the Kyoto protocol. This is familiar territory."

After the talks at the UN, she insisted that "no-one has the intention to take military action" against Iran.

Busy times

But she refused to repeat her predecessor Jack Straw's insistence that such action was "inconceivable".

She said there was clear agreement that nobody wanted Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

It's not anybody's intention to take the course of military action
Margaret Beckett

An initial meeting between the foreign ministers was held on Monday evening - three days after Mrs Beckett became foreign secretary in Tony Blair's Cabinet reshuffle.

Officials said the talks were strategic, and not an attempt to agree on a UN Security Council resolution. They were continuing on Tuesday.

"What people are concerned to do is to get Iran to recognise the strong view and the clear will of the international community that they should comply with the IEAE (International Atomic Energy Agency) board," said Mrs Beckett.

The foreign secretary added: "You're inviting me to tread down the path of talking about military action - I'm not going to do that.

"Everybody expresses their views, their stance, in their own way. The way that I choose to express it is that it's not anybody's intention to take the course of military action.

"That I think is simple and straightforward and clear."


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