Hague pledges to work closely with US on Iran sanctions
New British Foreign Secretary William Hague pledged Friday that London's new coalition government will work closely with the Obama administration to secure new sanctions against Iran and stabilize Afghanistan.
Calling the United States "without doubt" Britain's top ally, Hague also promised that London would help Washington push for Arab-Israeli peace when he joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a press conference in Washington.
On his inaugural overseas trip in his new role three days into London's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, both he and Clinton sought to defuse any fears that the coalition might split on key issues.
Hague promised a "strong continuity of British policy" on Iran under the new coalition, saying its approach resembled that taken by the previous Labour Government.
He fully endorsed remarks by Clinton, who said the United States does not expect Iran to provide any "serious response" to concerns about its nuclear program until the United Nations acts on sanctions.
"The United Kingdom will work solidly alongside the United States to secure the Security Council resolution," the British minister said.
He was referring to US-led efforts for a fourth council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium, which can be turned into fuel for a civilian nuclear reactor or fuel for a bomb.
China has been the main holdout to new UN sanctions, along with Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon. Russia over the last few months has expressed greater openness to sanctions.
When asked if London and Washington might be forced to discuss military action against Iran, Hague replied: "We've never ruled out supporting, in the future, military action, but we're not calling for it."
The junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, have long opposed military action outright.
Hague repeated that Britain's new Prime Minister David Cameron has made the joint effort in Afghanistan -- where Britain has deployed 10,000 troops -- "our top priority in foreign affairs."
Britain wants to give the "NATO strategy and the agreements made at the London conference (in January) the time and support to succeed."
And as a new government in London, "we will take stock of how we can best do that," he said.
"And that includes enhancing and reinforcing the cooperation between the United Kingdom and the United States at the highest level so we have a clear, shared perspective on what we are doing," Britain's top diplomat said.
He also stressed that London and Washington "share common goals" in Afghanistan, adding they have already started discussing ways to boost their cooperation in and support for Pakistan.
On the Middle East, he said he "expressed my firm and full support for the (US) president's efforts to relaunch negotiations" and vowed to use Britain's key role in Europe to "buttress these efforts."
The British foreign secretary pledged further cooperation in checking the spread of nuclear weapons worldwide.
And Hague paid tribute to Clinton's own brand of foreign policy, calling her advocacy of women's rights, education and development "an inspiration to foreign ministers and would-be foreign ministers" worldwide.
He sought to dispel any concerns about the stability of the new government.
"I think it's very important for our partners and friends around the world to know that what we've set out to achieve here is a particularly stable period in British politics and government," he said.
Clinton also played down any concerns she might have, saying that although the United States may not have a coalition government, it is well used to reconciling diverging views to formulate policy.
Hague played up the traditional special relationship.
"The United States is without doubt the most important ally of the United Kingdom," Hague said, adding the relationship is "rooted in the strong alignment" of their national interests and the scope of cooperation.
© 2010 AFP