Sunday, May 25, 2008

Britain Apprehensive Over Barack Obama's Iran Policy

Excerpted from the Times Online:

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has raised questions over Barack Obama’s policy on Iran, which officials in Washington and Europe fear threatens to undermine the tough stance adopted by the West towards Tehran over recent years.

The Foreign Secretary, on his visit to the US this week, has held talks with all three presidential campaigns, including those of Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

But when he met Mr Obama’s team of foreign policy advisers on Wednesday, Mr Miliband is understood to have queried the presumptive Democratic nominee’s declared willingness to meet leaders from rogue states such as Iran...

...British intelligence chiefs are understood to have identified Iranian nuclear proliferation as the second greatest security threat, behind Islamic terrorism but ahead of renewed aggression from Russia.

There is also deep concern about Iran’s support for Iraqi Shia militias or terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. “The role of Iran as a source of instability in the region is undoubtedly a concern,” Mr Miliband said this week. “No one can watch armed militias coming on to the streets in defiance of UN resolutions with equanimity.”

Exact accounts of the conversation with Mr Obama differ and there is certainly acute anxiety on the part of the British not to be seen as stoking political controversy in America’s presidential elections....

...In a televised debate last summer, Mr Obama was asked if he would be willing to meet the leaders of countries such as Iran and Cuba without preconditions during his first year in office. He replied: “I would.” But this week he appeared to pull back, saying he would still be willing to meet Iranian leaders but not before what he described as “preparations” — and not necessarily with President Ahmadinejad...

...Mr Miliband, in a press conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, reiterated Britain’s support for the united front on Iran adopted by the US and its European allies, which he believes is beginning to pay dividends...

..Mr McCain’s foreign policy chief, Randy Scheunemann, would not comment on his own meetings with Mr Miliband. But he said: “Obama’s position is obviously different to that of Britain and France. Otherwise Prime Minister Brown and President Sarkozy would have already met the President of Iran without conditions. - Read in full.

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