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UK warns Iran of ‘consequences’ if it breaches nuclear deal

Concerns over Chinese involvement in sensitive communications networks was also on the agenda for the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives for a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, at Lambeth Palace (Chris J Ratcliffe/PA)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives for a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, at Lambeth Palace (Chris J Ratcliffe/PA)

Britain has warned Iran there will be “consequences” if it breaks the terms of the international deal which saw sanctions relaxed in return for Tehran giving up military nuclear ambitions.

The Iranian regime gave 60 days notice that it will resume enriching uranium unless the remaining signatories to the deal – the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia – act to protect it from American sanctions imposed after President Donald Trump pulled the US out last year.

Speaking alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a press conference following talks in London, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed that Britain remained committed to the 2015 deal and urged Iran to stick to its commitments.

Denouncing Iran’s move as  an “unwelcome step”, Mr Hunt said: “I urge Iran not to take further escalatory steps and to stand by its commitments.

“Sanctions were lifted in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme. Should Iran cease to observe its nuclear commitments, there would of course be consequences.

“For as long as Iran keeps its commitments, then so too will the United Kingdom.”

Mr Hunt warned that Iran’s neighbours would certainly seek nuclear weapons status if Tehran did so, in what he said would be “a massive step back” for the region’s security.

Despite months of US pressure on the UK to follow its rejection of the 2015 deal, Mr Pompeo insisted the two allies were “on the same side” over Iran.

Citing the history of Winston Churchill “staring evil in the face” in the Second World War, the Secretary of State said: “We’re on the same side, we’re on the side of values-driven democracy, we’re on the side of freedom.

“We’re on the side of creating a nation for the Iranian people, where they can have religious freedom and they can have democracy.”

Tensions between the UK and US over Chinese tech giant Huawei’s involvement in 5G telecommunications networks were also on the agenda in Mr Pompeo’s talks with Mr Hunt and Prime Minister Theresa May.

The UK is not considering any options that would put our national security communications at risk, either within the UK or with our closest allies Theresa May

Washington is urging allies to keep Huawei out of sensitive infrastructure programmes, citing fears that the company may provide a route for China’s communist regime to spy on the West.

Shortly before the meeting, Mrs May assured the House of Commons that she would not consider any options which would endanger national security communications.

And Mr Hunt insisted that no decision had been made on Huawei, despite reports that a recent National Security Council agreed it could be considered for “non-core” elements of the network such as antennae.

“We are taking a robust, risk-based approach that’s right for our UK market and network, and that addresses the UK national security needs,” Mrs May said at Prime Minister’s Questions.

“The UK is not considering any options that would put our national security communications at risk, either within the UK or with our closest allies.”

Mr Pompeo said he had “great confidence” that the UK would never act in a way which would “break the special relationship” and said Washington accepted that each country has a sovereign right to make its own decisions on the issue.

But he added: “The United States has an obligation to ensure that places where we operate, places where American information is, places where we have our national security risk, that they operate inside trusted networks. That’s what we’ll do.”

The US has voiced concern that Huawei involvement in sensitive communications infrastructure might put at risk the security of intelligence information shared among the Five Eyes group, also including the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Mr Pompeo warned against creating “open doors for Beijing’s spymasters” and claimed China was trying to divide the West “through bits and bytes, not bullets and bombs”.

“As a matter of Chinese law, the Chinese government can rightfully demand access to data flowing through Huawei and ZTE systems,” he said.

“Why would anyone grant such power to a regime that has already grossly violated cyberspace?”

Mr Hunt said: “With respect to Huawei and 5G, we have not made our final decision as a government. We are considering the evidence very carefully.

“But we would never take a decision that compromised our ability to share intelligence with our Five Eyes colleagues, in particular with the United States.

“We are absolutely clear that the security relationship that we have with the United States is what has underpinned the international order since 1945 and has led to unparalleled peace and prosperity, and the preservation of that is our number one foreign policy priority.”

Mr Pompeo urged the British Government to be “vigilant and vocal against a host of Chinese activities that undermine the sovereignty of all nations”.

He said: “China peddles corrupt infrastructure deals in return for political influence.

“Its bribe-fuelled debt diplomacy undermines good governance and threatens to upend the free market model on which so many countries depend.”

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, one of the Cabinet’s most ardent supporters of links with Washington, insisted that no decision on Huawei had officially been taken by the Government and “we need to take into account the issues of an open trading system but we also have to ensure protection, particularly of our critical national infrastructure, and that we’ll do”.

PA

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