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Bush is meeting on Monday with members of the Iraq Study Group, a blue-ribbon commission trying to come up with a new way forward in Iraq.

 

Hi TONY, I think your man has been smoking too much Bush as the only way out of IRAQ is in reverse...........ask Donald Rumksinfeld

 


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14 November 2006
OSAMA'S MEN WANT A NUCLEAR ATROCITY.

ISLAMIC fanatics are determined to carry out a nuclear atrocity, a top Foreign Office official warned last night.

She said Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network were carrying out a global search for the materials and know-how.

And there was "no doubt at all" the terror group wanted to build a radioactive bomb, the official warned.

She said the September 11 masterminds were looking to get hold of nuclear, chemical and biological agents.

She said: "We know that the aspiration is there, we know attempts to gather materials are there, we know that attempts to gather technologies are there." Her remarks echo MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller's warning that Britain faces the threat of terror attacks using weapons of mass destruction.

Security measures will dominate Tony Blair's last Queen's Speech, setting out new laws, tomorrow. The PM has been accused of playing politics with the issue. But his spokesman said Dame Eliza's warning and recent court cases underline the threat the UK faces.

The MI5 chief said her agents were aware of up to 30 active plots involving 1600 terror suspects.


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US presses for full NK sanctions
George W Bush, US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Condoleezza Rice
The US is finding it hard to press Asian leaders on sanctions
US President George W Bush is trying to persuade Asia-Pacific leaders at a Vietnam summit to give full support to UN sanctions against North Korea.

Mr Bush met South Korean and Japanese leaders, and on Sunday will meet those of China and Russia, both of whom are reluctant to back a tough line.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged North Korea to follow Vietnam's example by putting the war behind it.

At the summit itself, leaders committed to restarting global trade talks.

In a joint statement, heads of state and government of the 24 Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) member states said they were ready to move beyond their current positions to break the deadlock.

They said they had committed themselves to cuts in agricultural subsidies, the main issue which stalled the so-called Doha round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in July.

'Peace and opportunity'

The BBC's Bill Hayton in Hanoi says the move is a genuine effort to get the ball rolling towards resumption of the talks, and Washington's commitment could encourage the European Union, another major player, to do the same.

History lessons on Hanoi's streets for President Bush

Ms Rice used her speech to the forum to appeal for the removal of trade barriers in the region, praising Vietnam for seeking closer ties with the US.

She urged North Korea and Burma to follow Hanoi.

"If the leaders of Burma and North Korea were to follow the example of Vietnam, if they make the strategic choice and take the necessary steps to join the international community it will open a new path of peace and opportunity," she said.

Washington wants to reach a consensus over how to deal with North Korea so that it can present a united front at the next round of six-nation talks on its nuclear weapons programme, expected to take place next month.

Over a bilateral breakfast meeting, Mr Bush urged South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun to implement the sanctions and also support the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a voluntary programme designed to prevent the trafficking of material for weapons of mass destruction.

Police control traffic in Hanoi - 16/11/06

Mr Roh said he supported the principles of the PSI but left the level of Seoul's compliance unclear, saying he would not take part in the "full scope" of the initiative.

He said his country was still unwilling to carry out intrusive inspections of North Korean ships.

In a lunchtime meeting between Mr Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the two leaders agreed to pursue a ballistic missile defence programme against the threat from North Korea.

Mr Bush will see Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.


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6 December 2006
US IRAQ 'FAILURE'...

THE man lined up as George Bush's next defence secretary has admitted the US is not winning the war in Iraq.

And Robert Gates, above, warned that if the country is not stable in the next year or two it could lead to a "regional conflagration".

Former intelligence chief Gates, 63, told a Senate hearing yesterday he believes a political solution is needed.

He added: "What we are now doing is not satisfactory."


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7 December 2006
TALK TO OUR ENEMIES.. AND GET THE HELL OUT OF IRAQ.

PRESIDENT George Bush was told yesterday that he had to pull his troops out of Iraq.

And he was warned that he must get Syria and Iran on his side if he is to stop the chaos in the war-torn country.

A high-level US panel urged the president to take drastic action to tackle the "grave and deteriorating" situation in Iraq.

The Iraq Study Group - chaired by ex-US secretary of state and Bush's close friend James Baker - warned: "If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe.

"A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighbouring countries could intervene.

"Al-Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the US could be diminished."

The report came as Tony Blair flew to Washington for crisis talks with Bush about Iraq.

Earlier, the Prime Minister admitted the war was not being won - but he said Britain and the UK must stick with it.

The panel, however, warned that spiralling violence could engulf the whole Middle East.

The 10-man study group said the US should try to pull most combat troops out of Iraq by early 2008.

And they called for an urgent new diplomatic offensive to stabilise the country, telling Bush he must "engage constructively" with his enemies Iran and Syria.

The report adds: "This diplomatic effort should include every country that has an interest in avoiding a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq's neighbours.

"Iraq's neighbours and key states in and outside the region should form a support group to reinforce security and national reconciliation within Iraq."

The group said the Baghdad government should be warned that US support will be cut if they fail to seize the opportunity to make progress.

Last night, Bush pledged to take the report "very seriously".

He said: "It gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq."

White House aides said a new approach to Iraq could be unveiled within weeks.

Blair will use the report in his bid to persuade Bush to launch a new diplomatic push for peace between Israel and Palestine.


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Defiant Hamas rejects call for elections...

 

 

Hamas yesterday uncompromisingly rejected calls for new elections as fresh violence threatened a slide into worsening and potentially bloody conflict between it and the rival Fatah group it ousted in last January's poll.

The Islamist faction staged a formidable display of popular strength at a rally in its Gaza City heartland, while in the West Bank city of Ramallah, hospital officials said at least 32 of its supporters were injured, some critically, when Fatah-dominated security forces fired on demonstrators. There were also exchanges of fire between the two factions in Gaza City, close to the home of Mohammed Dahlan, a prominent Fatah figure accused by a Hamas spokesman yesterday of being behind the gun attack on the convoy of the Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, on Thursday. The attack killed a bodyguard and injured his eldest son, Abed Haniyeh.

Mr Dahlan said the accusations against him were a "lie" and an attempt to cover up Hamas's own failure to pursue the gunmen it knew to be responsible for Monday's murder of a senior intelligence officer's three children.

Mr Haniyeh, whose black Mercedes was driven into the rally under heavy security, told the 30,000-strong crowd that the moral and financial support he secured on his foreign tour ­ which included Iran and Syria ­ had "broken the blockade" imposed by the international and Israeli boycott and given the faction a new "confidence".

Hamas used its 19th anniversary rally in the Yarmouk football stadium to undermine possible plans by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to dissolve the Hamas-led government, call fresh elections or launch a referendum on the compromise document at the heart of the failed coalition talks between the factions. There has been speculation that Mr Abbas will float the ideas in a speech today.

The senior Hamas parliamentarian Khalil Al-Hayya told the rally: "We will not accept a referendum or elections because that is against the determination of the people."

He added that people had come to the rally to "swear they would not recognise Israel"­ one of the international conditions for lifting the boycott.

In a reference to the deployment of armed Fatah forces, including those of Mr Abbas's presidential guard, who fired at Hamas militants at the Rafah terminal on Thursday, Mr Hayya said: "What a war, Mahmoud Abbas, you are launching, first against God, and then against Hamas." But he insisted: "We will not be pushed into a civil war planned by collaborators."

 

The rally was a highly organised spectacle choreographed with notable professionalism for the benefit of a largely enthusiastic audience. It displayed Hamas's unique fusion of Islam, militarism and political populism with a heavy presence of armed, black-clad members of the Hamas " executive force" and masked men, some carrying rocket-propelled grenades as well as AK47s, in the stadium, on nearby rooftops, and on street corners through much of the city.

One of the highlights of a programme which repeatedly glorified militant operations against Israel came when two members of Hamas's military wing abseiled down a four-storey apartment building overlooking the stadium unfurling a 20-foot-deep portrait of Fatima al Najar, 70, the suicide bomber who blew herself up close to Israeli troops in Beit Hanoun last month. Her voice on her last video was simultaneously relayed through loudspeakers, declaring eternal allegiance to Hamas.

A second banner carried giant portraits of Mr Haniyeh, Khaled Mashaal, the exiled Hamas leader, and a group of prominent Hamas figures assassinated by Israel, led by Ahmed Yassin, the Hamas founder killed in an air strike in 2004.

Between speeches punctuated with Koranic readings and tape-recorded machinegun fire, two male close harmony groups relayed Hamas messages in the idiom of popular Arab music. "Hamas waters our olive trees," one identically beige-suited quintet sang through the amplifiers.

In the most adventurous set, the central Fatah/ Hamas dialogue on strategy was sung ­ with surprising even handedness ­ in counterpoint in a kind of Arabic rock operetta, in which one singer rehearsed a series of frequently aired complaints against Hamas, as represented by another, keffiyeh-clad, singer, before both predictably joined in unison in a hymn to national unity.

But behind the entertainment, Hamas's message that it intends to stay in power for its full four-year term, coupled with what some observers see as the most dangerous conflict within Palestinian politics for a decade, afford a sombre background for the attempts Tony Blair will be making to revitalise the peace process on Monday.

While yesterday's rally was an overt attempt to show that Hamas remains a serious political force, even some opponents recognise that its support ­ while almost certainly reduced ­ has not yet imploded as a result of the international boycott.


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ARCHIVE:

 

Election Day:
The Warmongers Have Already Won

5th May 2007
 


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A week after Saddam Hussein stood on the scaffold at Camp Justice in Baghdad and was taunted during his final moments on Earth by followers of the militant Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, none of the emotions that were aroused have faded.

On the contrary, the revulsion which was felt in the West and among Sunni Muslims has grown even greater.

Sunni Arabs pray at Saddam Hussein's grave
Many Sunni Arabs are outraged by the timing of the execution
Yet so has the sense of triumph among Shias in Iraq and elsewhere.

In death as in life, Saddam continues to divide his enemies.

His execution has acted like an explosion along the seismic fault-line between the two leading forms of Islam.

Under Saddam, who was himself a Sunni and ruled through the Sunni minority, Iraq counted as a Sunni country even though the clear majority of the population was Shia.

When he invaded Iran in 1980, soon after the Shia Islamic revolution against the Shah, the Iran-Iraq war was seen by many people in the Muslim world as a Sunni-Shia one.

Sunni fears

Saddam's Iraq received huge amounts of cash and assistance from Sunni countries in the region, who were anxious for reasons of their own that Shi'ism should not be victorious.

By executing Iraq's Sunni dictator, the predominantly Shia government has persuaded countries across the Middle East and beyond that it is determined to act in a sectarian fashion

It wasn't, because neither side won the Iran-Iraq war. It ended after eight years as a terrible, destructive draw.

But when the US, with crucial support from Britain, decided to invade Iraq in 2003 and overthrew Saddam Hussein, Sunni control over Iraq was destroyed.

And the holding of properly democratic elections ensured that the majority took power - the Shia majority, that is.

Iraq was lost to the Sunni world, and henceforth became a Shia country with a Sunni minority.

Iranian 'colony'

Now, by executing Iraq's Sunni dictator, the predominantly Shia government has persuaded countries across the Middle East and beyond that it is determined to act in a sectarian fashion.

Huge numbers of Sunnis now believe that Iraq is little more than a colony of Iran, doing exactly what the mullahs there instruct it. And of course public opinion in Iran was overjoyed at the execution of the man who had killed so many Iranians during the 1980-88 war.

Shia Muslims at Friday prayers in Sadr City, Baghdad
Mr Maliki's decision pleased his own Shia community
In fact, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's decision to execute Saddam was all about internal Iraqi politics. Having been dismissed by growing numbers of Iraqis as weak and ineffectual, Mr Maliki acted with extraordinary decision by executing Saddam so soon after his final appeal was rejected.

But although he has delighted his followers, he has divided the Muslim world even more fiercely.

Even the date of the execution has been damaging.

One of the lesser divisions between Sunni and Shia Islam is the date their followers begin to celebrate the joyful festival of Eid al-Adha.

Mubarak anger

This year Shias regarded last Sunday as the start of Eid, so there was no problem for them about executing Saddam the previous day: Saturday 30 December. That was when the world's Sunnis began celebrating Eid.

I used to be sorry for Iraq that American and Britain had destroyed it, now I'm glad they have - Iraq deserves it
Man in Jordan

It could scarcely have been more offensive.

President Mubarak of Egypt says he warned President Bush of all this. President Bush apparently did nothing to intervene.

Now Mr Mubarak is baffled and angry. "Why did they have to hurry? Why hang him when people are reciting their holiday prayers?" he asked.

And he found the manner of the execution "revolting and barbaric", with the Shia guards chanting their leader's name at Saddam, and pulling the lever to the trap-door before he was able to finish the full Islamic profession of faith.

A man in the Jordanian city of Amman put it more simply today: "I used to be sorry for Iraq that American and Britain had destroyed it. Now I'm glad they have. Iraq deserves it."

As I say, Saddam is proving just as dangerous to his enemies now that he's been a week in his grave.


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War on Terror

Fighting The Taliban

Sean Langan witnesses the bloody battle to retake the strategically critical town of Garmser in Helmand province. Overstretched and outnumbered, are the British troops fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan? Read more ยป


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Special Reports



George Bush will tell sceptical Americans he will send 21,500 more US troops to Iraq...

It is part of a long-delayed new plan for the unpopular war, setting up a confrontation with Democrats. The fresh infusion of troops will join about 130,000 already in Iraq. Senior administration officials said 17,500 would go to Baghdad and 4,000 to volatile Anbar province.
 
The first wave of troops are expected to arrive in five days, with others coming in additional waves.

Under the plan, the Iraqi government will deploy additional Iraqi troops to Baghdad with a first brigade deploying Febuary 1 and two more by Febuary 15. Senior administration officials said the cost of the troop increase would be around $5.6bn.

An additional $1.2bn would finance a rebuilding and jobs programmes.

Democratic leaders of the US Congress say they plan to hold symbolic votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate on Bush's plan, which will force the president's Republicans to take a stand on the proposal in an attempt to isolate the president politically over his handling of the war.

They also could try to cut funding for the revised war strategy, but so far Democratic leaders have shied away from threats to do that, although some would like to do so.

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UK 'must continue to fight wars'
Tony Blair

Tony Blair has said his foreign policy is "controversial" but his approach of military intervention must continue.

In a major speech, he said the "war on terror" may last a generation but to retreat would be a "catastrophe".

He also admitted the army was doing more than planned and there were "real problems" with military housing.

The Tories said Mr Blair's legacy would be an "overstretched" army. The Lib Dems said his foreign policy had "severely" harmed Britain's reputation.

Speaking aboard HMS Albion in Plymouth, the prime minister said Britain and the world faced a "new and different" security challenge following 11 September 2001.

And Britain had to choose whether it wanted to be in the front line of the global fight against terrorism, or retreat to a peacekeeping role.

Terrorism cannot be defeated by military means alone, but it can't be defeated without it
Tony Blair

"My choice is for armed forces that are prepared to engage in this difficult, tough, challenging campaign, to be war fighters as well as peacekeepers," he told an audience of servicemen.

He said he wanted to keep a strong American alliance and "for us as a nation to be as willing to fight terrorism and pay the cost of that fight wherever it may be".

But he acknowledged that Britain's armed forces were under strain fighting twin campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

'Unnerved'

"It is true that operational commitments are at a higher level than originally planned. Service personnel are working harder and for longer than intended," he said.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The UK is not a world power and the taxpayer cannot afford to pay for expensive make belief any more
Patrick, Yorkshire

And although he believed the condition of service accommodation had been "exaggerated," resentment over it was more "raw" among the military, because of what was being asked of them.

"The extraordinary job that servicemen do needs to be reflected in the quality of accommodation provided for them and their families, at home or abroad," said Mr Blair.

Mr Blair admitted public opinion was divided over Britain's military campaigns and "unnerved by the absence of victory" in its traditional form.

'Too late'

But he argued against political disengagement and said that Britain must be prepared to fight for its values and that defence spending would have to increase.

"Terrorism cannot be defeated by military means alone, but it can't be defeated without it," said Mr Blair.

But shadow foreign secretary William Hague said soldiers wanted to know what Mr Blair was going to do now, about their accommodation, allowances, medical care and equipment.

British troops in Basra
Mr Blair acknowledged troops were under strain

"After a decade in power, his legacy will be an overstretched army, navy and air force. It's too late to have a 'debate'," he said.

And Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said military action in Iraq, undertaken without UN authority, had "severely damaged Britain's reputation".

"Britain has to learn that we will only be at our most effective in tackling terrorism when we operate within the rules and with allies of the same mind," he said.

Left-wing MP John McDonnell, who intends to stand for the Labour leadership once Mr Blair resigns, said Mr Blair had made "catastrophic foreign policy mistakes".

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond said Mr Blair had made the world "a more dangerous place" and was "clearly trying to foist that legacy onto his successor".

DEFENCE SPENDING AND PERSONNEL
Country Defence budget %GDP Active personnel
US $470.2bn 4% 1,426,713
UK $64bn 2.5% 201,400
France $41.5bn 1.95% 259,050
Germany $27.9bn 1.30% 284,500


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16 January 2007
REID WAR WARNING.

THE fight against Islamic fanatics will last as long as the Cold War, John Reid warned yesterday.

The Home Secretary told MPs it would take longer to defeat al-Qaeda than colleagues have predicted.

Ministers previously suggested the war on terror would last a generation.

However, Reid said: "My own estimate is this will last probably as long as the ColdWar."

The Cold War began in the mid-1940s after the end of World War II and it lasted until the early 1990s with the fall of Communism.

Reid stressed the battle against fanatics was "a struggle for ideas and values in essence".

He added: "It is both inside and outside Islam.

"It is a global struggle that manifests itself in different theatres in different forms."

THE first American "surge" troops sent by George Bush to beef up security in Iraq arrived in Baghdad yesterday.


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Control room at Xichang Space Centre in China (file photo)
The missile was reportedly launched near Xichang Space Centre
China has confirmed it carried out a test that destroyed a satellite, in a move that caused international alarm.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said a test had been carried out but insisted China was committed to the "peaceful development of outer space".

The US backed reports last week that China had used a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile to destroy a weather satellite.

It was the first known satellite intercept test for more than 20 years.

Several countries, including Japan, Australia and the US, have expressed concern at the test, amid worries it could trigger a space arms race.

Until Tuesday, China had refused to confirm or deny the reports.

International concern

Liu Jianchao told reporters that China had notified "other parties and... the American side" of its test.

CHINA IN SPACE
China first launched a manned space mission in 2003 - the third nation to do so after the US and Russia
Chinese astronauts aim to perform a spacewalk as early as next year
Until now, the US and Russia have been the only nations to shoot down space objects
China insists its space programme is of no threat, but other nations are wary
China says it spends $500m on space projects. NASA is due to spend $17bn in 2007

"But China stresses that it has consistently advocated the peaceful development of outer space and it opposes the arming of space and military competition in space," he told a news conference.

"China has never, and will never, participate in any form of space arms race."

The magazine American Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that a Chinese Feng Yun 1C polar orbit weather satellite had been destroyed by an anti-satellite system launched from or near China's Xichang Space Centre on 11 January.

The test is thought to have occurred at more than 537 miles (865km) above the Earth.

The report was confirmed by US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe last Thursday.

He said at the time the US "believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of co-operation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area".

Japan and Australia also spoke of their fears of a possible new arms race in space.

map

The test also triggered alarm in Taiwan, which relies on US satellites to monitor Chinese deployments.

There are already growing international concerns about China's rising military power.

While Beijing keeps its defence spending a secret, analysts say that it has grown rapidly in recent years.

Debris fears

China is now only the third country to shoot something down in space.

Both the US and the Soviet Union halted their tests in the 1980s over concerns that the debris they produced could harm civilian and military satellite operations.

While the US may be unhappy about China's actions, the Washington administration has recently opposed international calls to end such tests.

It revised US space policy last October to state that Washington had the right to freedom of action in space, and the US is known to be researching such "satellite-killing" weapons itself.


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26 January 2007
NUKES ARE DEFENDED

NUCLEAR bombs are not evil, Defence Secretary Des Browne insisted yesterday.

It came after Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, said Scots had "no wish to pay for or host these evil weapons".

Browne said: "I do not believe that nuclear weapons are inherently evil."

He agreed that pushing the button would be evil "in most circumstances".

But he said having weapons to stand up to tyrants was "at least morally permissible".


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Iran strike 'would be disastrous'...
 
President George Bush and Tony Blair
The report's authors want Tony Blair to put pressure on the US

 
A coalition of charities, faith groups and unions has warned Tony Blair that any military action against Iran would have "unthinkable" consequences.

The organisations are urging the prime minister to put pressure on the US to enter talks with Tehran.

The US has refused to rule out military action if Iran does not halt its nuclear activities.

Former Labour MP Lorna Fitzsimons warned that time was "running out" to stop Iran becoming nuclear-armed.

Criticism

The US and its Western allies suspect Iran of using its nuclear energy programme as a cover to produce atomic weapons. Tehran denies this claim.

Recent criticism by President George Bush of alleged Iranian support for insurgency in Iraq has increased concerns that his administration is contemplating an attack.

The consequences of military action against Iran are not only unpalatable, they are unthinkable
Former Labour minister Stephen Twigg

 

In the report, Time to Talk: The Case for Diplomatic Solutions on Iran, the coalition accuses Mr Blair of using the prospect of military action as a negotiating tool.

Launching the report, former Labour minister Stephen Twigg, director of the Foreign Policy Centre, said: "The consequences of military action against Iran are not only unpalatable; they are unthinkable.

"Even according to the worst estimates, Iran is still years away from having a nuclear weapon.

"There is still time to talk and the prime minister must make sure our allies use it."

Coalition.

The charity Oxfam, unions Unison, GMB and Amicus, have been joined by the Muslim Parliament and Christian Solidarity Worldwide in signing the report.

They warn that a strike against Iran would continue to destabilise the region and provoke further attacks against British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Military action is not likely to be a short, sharp engagement but could have a profound effect on the region, with shock waves felt far beyond," the report says.

It goes on to say the British government is "well positioned to articulate objections to military action" and that it should "not lose this opportunity to advocate for direct US engagement".

But Ms Fitzsimons, chief executive of the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What we are talking about here is Iran reaching the ability on an industrial scale to manufacture highly enriched uranium."

'Watershed'

International Institute for Strategic Studies and others were predicting this would happen within 11 months, she added.

Ms Fitzsimons said: "That is the watershed. There is no return from that point.

"You can't get the genie back in the bottle technologically once they have sorted out the problem they currently have with their centrifuges.

"I don't think you can stop it. You might be able to disrupt it. It's a question of looking at how far you can go down the line where you lose the ability to disrupt it."

Sir Richard Dalton, the British ambassador to Iran until last year, backed the calls for increased diplomacy.

"Recourse to military action - other than in legitimate self-defence - is not only unlikely to work but would be a disaster for Iran, the region and quite possibly the world," he said.

Military warnings

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Michael Moore said: "This is a timely and significant report.

"It highlights the need for the international community to be more aware of the potentially disastrous consequences of military action against Iran."

But the Conservatives said it was important to "keep all options on the table".

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said: "We cannot give them the comfort of believing that there is any weakness in the western alliance or that there is a chance that they might be able to divide and rule."


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