PM warns Iran over nuclear ambitions

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The threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons has reached a "critical" level and risks undermining stability in the Middle East, Gordon Brown will warn today.

He will urge Tehran to take the opportunity of Barack Obama's arrival in the White House to resume talks with the world community over its nuclear ambitions or face new sanctions. Mr Brown will argue that more than 30 nuclear power stations need to be built every year across the world for the next four decades to slash global carbon dioxide emissions.

But he will warn that tough controls have to be drawn up to stop new nuclear countries from using the technology to develop atomic weaponry.

President Obama and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President, have both said they want to improve US-Iran relations. But the sticking-point remains the country's nuclear programme, which the West believes is aimed at developing deadly missile systems, while Iran insists it is only for domestic power generation.

In a speech in London today, the Prime Minister will say: "Iran has the same absolute right to a peaceful civil nuclear programme as any other country. Indeed, the UK and international community stand ready to help Iran achieve it. But let me be equally clear that Iran's current nuclear programme is unacceptable." He will condemn Tehran for "concealing nuclear activities", for refusing to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and for flouting United Nations Security Council resolutions. "Its refusal to play by the rules leads us to view its nuclear programme as a critical proliferation threat," he will add.

The Prime Minister will call on President Ahmadinejad to accept the world community's willingness to negotiate and Mr Obama's offer of talks with the Iranian leadership. He will say that the country has a choice between continuing on its present course and facing "further and tougher sanctions", or allowing the UN to oversee a civil nuclear energy programme.

Mr Brown will argue: "Whether we like it or not, we will not meet the challenges of climate change without the far wider use of civil nuclear power." He will quote research by the International Energy Agency, which concludes that 32 nuclear power stations need to be built annually to halve CO2 emissions by the year 2050.

He will suggest that countries such as Iran could sign a "uranium enrichment bond", guaranteeing their supply of uranium in return for regular inspections of their nuclear programmes. Smaller nations could also be encouraged to pool their resources to develop nuclear power supplies. "We have to create a new international system to help non-nuclear states acquire the new sources of energy they need," the Prime Minister will say.