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Blair attacked over Iran stance

Gavin Cordon,Press Association
Saturday 30 January 2010 10:59 GMT

Tony Blair was strongly criticised today after he warned that the international community must be prepared to take a "very hard, tough line" with Iran over its banned nuclear programme.

In his evidence yesterday to the Iraq Inquiry, the former prime minister said that many of the arguments which led him to confront Saddam Hussein now applied to the regime in Tehran.

He attacked the Iranians for fomenting the insurgency which followed the invasion of Iraq by British and US forces, and he said that they must not now be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

He said that if action had not been taken in 2003 to topple Saddam, Iraq could now be locked in a nuclear arms race with Iran with potential devastating consequences for the region and the wider world.

However his claim that the Iranians almost caused the failure of the coalition mission in Iraq through their support for the insurgency was dismissed as a "piece of spin" by a former British ambassador to Tehran, Sir Richard Dalton.

"To say that Iran was the principal reason seemed to me to be part of a broader argument which he was trying to make, namely that it makes what he did in Iraq look better if he extends it to the future and says the policies then might have to be applied. But Iran is a completely different situation," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Sir Richard said that it was now essential that all the political parties made clear in the run up to the general election that there would be no repeat of Mr Blair's actions in respect of Iran.

"One result of Tony Blair's intervention on Iran - he mentioned Iran 58 times - is to put the question of confronting Iran into play in the election," he said.

"We need to be much clearer, as voters, with our politicians and with our candidates that we expect a different behaviour and a greater integrity in our democracy next time."

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