Tories back US action on Iran

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Liam Fox, the shadow Defence Secretary, has backed hawks in the White House by calling for "nothing to be ruled out" to stop Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Mr Fox gave the clearest signal yet that the Conservatives would support military action, including the use of nuclear strikes by the US or Israel, to halt the alleged production of a nuclear weapon by Iran.

"I am a hawk on Iran," said Mr Fox. "We should rule absolutely nothing out when it comes to Iran.

"They are notoriously good poker players and it is a very high stakes game they are playing."

His remarks follow reports in the USthat Israel is ready to use nuclear "bunker buster" bombs to knock out the Iranian nuclear plants.

Israeli officials denied the reports but there is a widespread belief at Westminster that Israel and America will not stand by while Iran develops nuclear weapons, although Iran has denied it is doing so.

The issue has caused rifts in Tony Blair's Government. Jack Straw said military action against Iran was "inconceivable" when he was foreign secretary. Mr Blair has insisted that military action was not on the agenda, but refused to go as far as Mr Straw in ruling it out.