Britain warns of new measures against Iran

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Britain warned Iran Wednesday it would take new measures if Tehran did not "change direction", after the UN atomic watchdog issued its most critical report yet on the Islamic republic's nuclear drive.

Foreign Secretary William Hague further warned that Iran's nuclear programme risked undermining gains made in the Middle East during the Arab Spring.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in its report Tuesday there was "credible" intelligence suggesting Iran had carried out work towards building nuclear warheads, a claim denied by officials in Tehran.

"The assertions of recent years by Iran that their nuclear programme is wholly for peaceful purposes are completely discredited by this report," Hague told parliament.

"Iran is ramping up its production of uranium enrichment to levels for which it has no plausible civilian use, but which could easily and quickly be converted into weapons-grade material."

He went on: "Iran needs to change direction. We want a negotiated solution and have extended the hand of reconciliation to Iran time and time again."

If Tehran refused to engage in serious negotiations about its nuclear programme, "we must continue to increase the pressure and we are considering with our partners a range of additional measures to that affect," said Hague.

He added Iran's actions "not only run counter to the positive change that we are seeing elsewhere in the region; they may threaten to undermine it, bringing about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East or the risk of conflict."

© 2011 AFP

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