Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned Iran that “all options are on the table” if it fails to “meaningfully” engage in talks over its nuclear programme.
Amid concerns over the country’s escalation of uranium enrichment, Ms Truss raised the prospect of further sanctions when questioned by MPs.
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said Iran’s nuclear programme has “never been more advanced” and is “more worrying today than perhaps it has ever been”.
If Iran does not engage meaningfully in negotiations, we will reconsider our approach. All options are on the tableForeign Secretary Liz Truss
Earlier this month, Ms Truss urged Iran to return “rapidly” to Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks, with a view to all sides coming back into compliance and reducing tensions.
The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme, and is meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
In 2018, the US unilaterally pulled out of the accord but the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia have tried to preserve it.
Iran has claimed its nuclear programme is peaceful.
Further concerns emerged after the country’s nuclear chief reported that Iran has produced more than 265lb (120kg) of 20% enriched uranium – far more than the UN nuclear watchdog reported in September.
Scientists estimate at least 375lb (170kg) of 20% enriched uranium is needed to make a bomb.
Iran’s nuclear programme has never been more advanced and it is more worrying today than perhaps it has ever beenForeign Office minister James Cleverly
Ms Truss told the Commons: “Iran has no credible civilian justification for its nuclear escalation. As I made clear to my Iranian counterpart, Iran needs to urgently return to the negotiating table.
“If Iran does not engage meaningfully in negotiations, we will reconsider our approach. All options are on the table.”
Conservative MP Greg Smith (Buckingham) earlier labelled Iran the “world’s leading sponsor of terror groups, including those committed to the destruction of Israel” before adding: “Does my right honourable friend share my concern that having a nuclear weapon would give Iran the ultimate protection to spread its malign influence in the region?”
Mr Cleverly, in his reply, said: “I can assure (Mr Smith) that our priority absolutely remains to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapon capability.
“Sadly Iran’s nuclear programme has never been more advanced and it is more worrying today than perhaps it has ever been.”
Conservative former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt also pressed Ms Truss on the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
The British-Iranian dual national has been in custody in the country since 2016 after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
She was taking her daughter, Gabriella, to see her family when she was arrested and shortly afterwards was sentenced to five years in prison. She has now spent four years in Evin Prison and one under house arrest.
According to her family, she was told by Iranian authorities that she was being detained because of the UK’s failure to pay an outstanding £400 million debt to Iran.
Mr Hunt said: “(Ms Truss) will know that Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanin’s husband, has restarted his hunger strike this week. She will also know that Nazanin is not going to come home until we pay the debt that we owe Iran for the Challenger tanks the Foreign Secretary has accepted we do owe Iran.
“May I ask her when we are going to repay that debt and what will she do to make sure that hostage-taking never pays, going forward?”
The Foreign Secretary said she had huge sympathies for the family, adding: “It’s imperative that she is not put back into jail in Iran.
“I am working as hard as I can, both directly with the Iranian authorities, I had a meeting with Iranian ministers as well as our international allies, to bring Nazanin and the other UK detainees home.”