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Hammond warns on Iran nuclear talks

Failure to achieve a deal over Iran's uranium enrichment programme could trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, Philip Hammond has warned.

The Foreign Secretary called for Iran to "show flexibility and take tough decisions" ahead of further negotiations between Tehran and the international community.

Iran and the so-called P5+1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Russia, China, the UK and France - along with Germany, hope to reach a rough deal on the nuclear programme by the end of March and a final agreement by June 30.

Tehran insists its programme is for civil nuclear power, but the international community has imposed sanctions amid concerns Iran has ambitions to create nuclear weapons.

Mr Hammond, in a speech in the City of London, said he was clear that "no deal is better than a bad deal" if talks in Switzerland fail to make progress.

At the Lord Mayor's Banquet, he said: "Agreement is deliverable if we continue on this track. But to reach it, the time has come for Iran to show flexibility and take tough decisions.

"Iran must commit to a comprehensive, durable and verifiable deal - a deal that ensures Iran's nuclear programme remains exclusively peaceful. There will no doubt be difficult decisions required on all sides in the coming days and weeks.

"For our part, I remain clear that no deal is better than a bad deal. But we should also be clear-eyed about the alternative.

"No deal means no restrictions on enrichment, no restrictions on research and development, and no independent monitoring or verification. It means a fundamentally more unstable Middle East, with the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the region."

He added: "So now is the time, with our key allies, to build on the recent momentum, to press Iran where differences remain, and to strain every sinew to get a deal over the finishing line. The door to a nuclear deal is open, but Iran must now step through it."

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