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Blair backs referring Iran to U.N.


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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he would support Iran being referred to the U.N. Security Council if Tehran breached its nuclear obligations.

"We certainly will support referral to the U.N. Security Council if Iran breaches its undertaking and obligations," Blair said Thursday at his first news conference since his Labour Party won a historic third term in last week's elections.

But Blair added he saw "no point in speculating" about what might happen if diplomacy should fail.

The European Union and the United States want Iran to stop uranium enrichment activities, fearing it would lead the Islamic Republic to nuclear weapons. But Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Britain, France and Germany -- representing the European Union -- began talks with Tehran two years ago, and Iran agreed last year to freeze its enrichment activities.

The United States has refused to participate but has not objected to the European talks.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Iran was expected to deliver a letter declaring it would resume the enrichment activities -- and that European officials had sent a letter to Tehran warning that if it did, talks would end.

But Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Thursday that he expected the talks to pass through their "present indecisive state and become more serious," according to the Iranian state news agency, IRNA.

Khatami, who was meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah bin Ahmad Badawi, said he believed "a logical and ideal solution" could be found through "an impartial view free from foreign pressures," the agency said.

He added the talks should not be used as a way to ultimately stop Iran from "its legal, religious and logical right" to gain access to nuclear technology, IRNA said.

Badawi also supported Iran's right to atomic technology, the agency said.

U.S. President George W. Bush recently said the United States was not considering a pre-emptive military strike against Iran, but at the same time "all options are on the table."

Asked about Bush's comments, Blair said they were "perfectly sensible."

"But nobody is talking about invasions of Iran or military action against Iran," Blair said. "We have to make sure that this diplomatic process works, and we will fight very hard to do that.

"There is no point in speculating what happens down the line if you reach an impasse. But there is a lot of processes that have to be gone through before you are at that point, not least the Security Council."

Hosting his monthly press conference in Downing Street, Blair also faced questions about how long he intends to remain in office.

He has said repeatedly that he intends to serve a full third term as prime minister before bowing out, and on Thursday he said he was standing by his earlier statements.

After Labour saw its majority reduced from 161 to 67 in the general election, several Labour MPs have called on Blair to step down much sooner and make way for finance minister Gordon Brown.

On Wednesday, Blair faced down his critics at a packed meeting of Labour MPs at the start of a new session of parliament. (Full story)


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