Bullish allies resist Iran's call for end to nuclear sanctions

UK ministers warned that Israeli strike on Iran nuclear facilities could spark Middle East war

World powers meeting in Baghdad yesterday produced new proposals aimed at limiting the levels of uranium enrichment in Iran's nuclear programme and edging towards a deal they hope could lift the threat of a Middle East war.

But they appeared to be resisting proposals from Tehran for an immediate easing of sanctions in return for tentative progress on the demand that UN weapons inspectors could visit a military base suspected of being used for nuclear-related arms testing.

A key proposal from the US, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany, as they began negotiations with Iran for the first time in 15 months, has the goal of persuading the Islamic republic to halt its highest-concentration enrichment at the level of 20 per cent.

It is this level – as opposed to the 3.5 per cent more widely applied in Tehran's nuclear programme – which most worries Western governments as it indicates Iran has overcome the most serious obstacles to enrichment at the 90 per cent level required for a nuclear weapon. Iran insists that its programme is aimed only at energy and medical uses and that nuclear weapons are forbidden by Islam.

In London, it emerged that Cabinet ministers have discussed what might happen if the current negotiations fail. The National Security Council, chaired by David Cameron, was warned that an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities could spark a wider Middle East war in which Iran closed the Straits of Hormuz, which carry more than a fifth of the world's oil supplies.

UK Government law officers are said to be looking into the legality of any action by Britain in this scenario, including a Royal Navy deployment. Any military intervention could cause tension between the Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat Coalition partners, who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Downing Street welcomed Iran's involvement in yesterday's talks and refused to discuss the Government's contingency plans. Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said: "Instead of sabre-rattling in public about what could happen if the diplomatic efforts fail, the Government should be focused on ensuring a successful outcome to the talks now under way."

Michael Mann, spokesman for the EU's foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton, said: "We have a new offer on the table which addresses our main concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme: the 20-per cent enrichment question." In a separate interview with Iranian Press TV, Mr Mann said no final deal was expected in Baghdad, but declared, without giving details: "We have put forward some things from our side to give back to the Iranians... It's up to them to react."

Israel has held open the possibility of a unilateral military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities and in recent days has warned the West against making concessions. Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, yesterday repeated that "a nuclear Iran is intolerable and no options should be taken off the table". He said an Iranian nuclear industry was only acceptable to Israel if it shut down all its enrichment sites and relied on imported fuel.

In Baghdad, Mr Mann suggested any easing of sanctions was unlikely during the current talks. He said the sanctions had helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table and added that some of the most painful ones – including the EU ban on Iranian oil imports due to start on 1 July – were a "matter of the law".

In Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said he hoped for "good news" in a "day or two." He added: "The ideas fielded to us speak of the fact that the other side would like to make Baghdad a success."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering