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Page last updated at 08:52 GMT, Monday, 20 February 2012

Attack on Iran 'would be disaster'

A top-level team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrive in Tehran for talks with regime figures on the Iranian nuclear programme.

Iran has indicated readiness for the first time in more than three years to address the IAEA's concerns about possible military links to its nuclear work, despite the EU imposing fresh sanctions last month by banning imports of oil from the country and freezing some assets of Iranian central bank Tejarat.

Michael Clarke, director of the defence think tank the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) told the Today programme's James Naughtie that objectively not much has changed but that the "timetable has been ramped up" fuelled in part by the upcoming US elections.

He said that nobody wants to take any option - including that of a military attack - off the table but that "if Israel was to do something and the Americans condoned it by silence, what would Britain say?"

Mr Clarke maintained that the "Israelis don't actually have the capabilities to attack Iranian sites in any effective way" and that even though America does have the capabilities, it doesn't want to be pulled into this "undeclared economic war of successions".

Meanwhile the House of Commons is debating the issue today, on a motion claiming that a use of force against Iran would be "counter productive".

Conservative MP John Baron, who is proposing the motion, explained that he believed it was naive to pursue sanctions and urged the government to take the option of force off the table as this is "a defining moment of bringing us back from the brink of military conflict."

The US is the "elephant in the room", he went on to say, because it has the last say on the matter.

Former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rikfind insisted that the UK must not rule out using military force against Iran because even though it is not a good option, it is the "least bad option".

He said that Britain must maintain pressure by keeping up sanctions and that taking the option of US or UK military action off the table brings the prospect of an Israeli attack on Iran "much, much closer".

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