Allowing Iran to build a nuclear bomb would spark a Middle East arms race, William Hague has warned.
Their support came as Foreign Secretary William Hague warned against backing down, telling the Commons there was risk of an arms race in the Middle East if the regime in Tehran thought it could develop a nuclear bomb without the threat of the West resorting to military action.
Mr Hague said allowing Iran such freedom would force its neighbours to develop their own warheads. If the UK and others withdrew any threat of military intervention, it would only embolden President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he added.
Speaking during a backbench-led debate in the Commons, Mr Hague described Iran's enrichment of uranium in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions as a "crisis coming steadily down the track" as scientists in the country were "steadily developing" the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
Ruling out force "would increase tension and increase the likelihood of military conflict in the near term", he said. "If Iran set about the development of nuclear weapons then other nations in the Middle East would do so as well," Mr Hague told MPs. "I therefore do believe there would be a nuclear arms race in the region."
Mr Hague insisted the Government remained "unswervingly committed" to diplomacy, but added "no prudent government" could rule out force. He told the Commons: "We should not relieve Iran of any of the military pressure it is currently facing. If we ruled out military action, Iran may perceive it can get away with aggressive military actions. Taking other options off the table may cause Iran to step up its aggressive and destabilising activity in the region."
The Foreign Secretary was speaking in a backbench-led Commons debate where Tory MP John Baron called on MPs to demand the Government rules out using military force against Iran.
Mr Baron, a member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said the West should abandon "sabre rattling" policies over Iran's nuclear ambitions - adding war was only ever a "last resort". Summing up the debate, the MP for Basildon and Billericay added: "My belief, in contrast to a lot of the contributions here tonight, is that we have not reached that point yet."
But a cross-party amendment to Mr Baron's motion, supported by heavyweights including former foreign secretaries Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Margaret Beckett as well as former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth, backed the Government to keep all its options open.
There was only a one-line whip on the vote on the amendment, giving MPs the freedom to support Mr Baron and vote against the Government. But instead they chose to overwhelmingly support the Government and voted through the amendment to the motion by 285 to 6, majority 279.