William Hague: UK doesn't want Iran conflict

William Hague: "This is a major increase on the peaceful legitimate pressure on Iran"

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Foreign Secretary William Hague has told MPs the UK does not want a military conflict with Iran over its nuclear programme.

He said the aim of an EU oil embargo was to get Iran to return to negotiations over its nuclear plans.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says military reinforcements could be sent to the Gulf, if necessary.

Mr Hague said "all options remain on the table" but the UK did not "want to see a military conflict over this".

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is for energy purposes.

But the European Union agreed sanctions on Monday to ban all new oil contracts with Iran and freeze the assets of Iran's central bank in the EU. Iran said the embargo is "unfair" and "doomed to fail".

'Nuclear dictatorship'

On Sunday the UK sent HMS Argyll as part of an international warship flotilla through the Strait of Hormuz - amid earlier suggestions from Iran that the route could be shut, if oil sanctions were imposed.

In total, 35% of the world's tanker-borne oil passes through the strait. The EU buys about 20% of Iran's oil exports.

Start Quote

We are not planning to take military action in the Gulf”

End Quote William Hague Foreign Secretary

In the Commons, Mr Hague questioned whether Iran would really make good on its threat - as 95% of its own oil exports passed through the strait.

He said the "routine movement" by HMS Argyll, a French vessel and US carrier group through the Strait of Hormuz "underlined the unwavering international commitment to maintaining rights of passage under international law".

But he was pressed by Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who asked if a new "nuclear dictatorship" was rising in the Middle East - and demanded to know: "What military action Britain and the allies are planning in the Strait of Hormuz?"

"No-one wants war but tragically it is looking increasingly possible," Mr Halfon said.

'Unilateral actions'

But Mr Hague said the sanctions were designed to prevent conflict.

"This is not a set of actions designed to lead to any conflict but to lead us away from any conflict by increasing the pressure for a peaceful settlement of these disputes."

But he added: "We have many contingency plans for many contingencies, including as the Defence Secretary said at our press conference this morning, for sending any further naval forces to that area.

"But we are not planning to take military action in the Gulf. We call on Iran to return to the negotiations which are at all times available to it."

Former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw, who now co-chairs the all-party Parliamentary group on Iran, said: "We know there are strong demands in parts of the Israeli administration for unilateral action, this is running into the US presidential election."

He said the UK "should not in any way, including Diego Garcia, should not in any way participate in any kind of military action without the clearest legal base from the [UN] security council".

Mr Hague stressed: "We are not calling for or advocating military action. It's the job of our armed forces to prepare for many contingencies but we are not calling for that."

He said any future conflict, anywhere in the world, would be subject to a Commons vote - as was the case with Libya in 2011, a day after the first UK air strikes.

Map A French warship also accompanied US and UK naval vessels through the Strait of Hormuz on Monday

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    Labour's health spokesman Andy Burnham is writing to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in relation to the new guidelines on "major incidents" issued by the West Midlands NHS region. Mr Burnham is asking whether similar guidance has been issued in trusts in other parts of the country.

     
  92.  
    09:00: Breaking News Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    The BBC has seen new guidelines that have been issued to some NHS hospitals over when they can call "major incidents." The new guidelines issued by the West Midlands NHS region include 17 additional criteria, prompting accusations that hospitals are being pressurised not to declare "major incidents". It is understood the new guidelines were drawn up after a spate of hospitals earlier this month announced they were declaring "major incidents" because of pressure on bed spaces.

     
  93.  
    08:51: Social care debate BBC Radio 4

    On the Today programme, Chris Ham, of the King's Fund, says there is a growing consensus that health and social care should be integrated. They are currently funded separately - but councils, which are responsible for social care - are warning they are struggling to cover their costs. Merging the two is a key plank of Labour's health pledges ahead of the election. With the NHS facing funding pressures of its own, Prof Ham warns against "robbing Peter to pay Paul".

    Social care
     
  94.  
    08:43: Calls for MP to be replaced

    The Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset is facing calls from within his own party to be deselected as a candidate in the general election.

    West Somerset Council's Conservatives group have passed a vote of no confidence in Ian Liddell Grainger.

    In the voting papers obtained by the BBC he was described as "back-stabbing" and using "unethical manoeuvres".

    He is yet to comment but the body in charge of selecting the candidate says it has "every confidence in him".

    Ian Liddell-Grainger MP
     
  95.  
    08:35: Call for stronger parliaments

    More should be done to strengthen parliaments in developing countries. The International Development Committee says a strong parliament "will inevitably ensure greater transparency and better use of state revenues including official development assistance".

    The committee's new report on parliamentary strengthening recommends the Department for International Development puts parliaments at the heart of its governance work.

     
  96.  
    08:30: 'Ethnic kinship' vote fraud warning
    polling station

    The elections watchdog is warning that a lack of campaigning by mainstream political parties in British Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities makes those areas vulnerable to electoral fraud. The Electoral Commission says there is a political "void" in some communities.

    It suggests this void is being filled with "ethnic kinship networks" which could undermine the principle of free choice for voters.

     
  97.  
    @chhcalling 08:25: Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris

    tweets: Went to a restaurant and had some Greek yogurt for breakfast. Alas I couldn't find a German to pay for it.

     
  98.  
    08:20: Ministry of Defence savings
    Ministry of Defence property

    The Ministry of Defence will have to sell off more military land and assets to make savings in the coming years, the defence secretary is indicating. Michael Fallon is expected to say in a speech this morning that his department's finances are in better shape than they once were but savings still need to be made.

    He will say the emphasis should be on supporting frontline troops by selling off more of the MoD's large estate.

     
  99.  
    @benatipsosmori 08:11: Ben Page, Ipsos MORI chief executive

    tweets: 100 days before 2015 election vs 2010 GE15 #politics pic.twitter.com/r8eH9eCIUa> some big differences for opposition party now!

    Vote share chart
     
  100.  
    08:05: Westminster today
    Palace of Westminster

    What will Ed Miliband choose to go on at Westminster's big event, Prime Minister's Questions, and what will David Cameron have lined to up to respond?

    PMQs is at noon, right after Northern Ireland Questions in the Commons. The House of Lords will continue to consider the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

     

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