Queen's Speech: nuclear non-proliferation and Iran

Notes on: "My government will work to reduce the threat from nuclear weapons and nuclear non-proliferation including the serious international concerns posed by Iran's nuclear programme."

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Reasons for the policy

The government is at the forefront of efforts by the international community to prevent the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

We face a new age of nuclear insecurity and our priority is to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. We are playing a strong role in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, currently occurring in New York, and will press for continued progress on multilateral disarmament.

We are committed to reviving the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We will work to rebuild trust and generate an atmosphere of cooperation and partnership.

We must have realistic expectations for the Review Conference; it is one stage in a decade-long effort to reverse the spread of nuclear weapons and cut their numbers worldwide. We hope that the Conference will agree on a clear, politically-binding action plan to strengthen the Treaty across its three mutually-reinforcing pillars.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been the mainstay of the non-proliferation regime over the last 40 years. However, the NPT has come under unprecedented stress in recent years due to the nuclear ambitions of DPRK and Iran, the expected global civil nuclear renaissance with the potential dissemination of highly sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technology, the ambition of terrorist groups to acquire nuclear materials and a fraying of international consensus on nuclear issues.

We remain extremely concerned about Iran’s nuclear programme. This is why we are still pursuing UN sanctions, a vital part of our strategy of engagement and pressure.

We will look to the EU to support these measures, and take tougher action to persuade Iran to engage in substantive negotiations. The E3+3 (UK, France, Germany + China, US and Russia) have now circulated a draft text of a resolution on sanctions to the UN Security Council. We aim for a vote in June, and are pressing the EU to take action immediately afterwards.

On 17 May, Iran, Brazil and Turkey announced that Iran had agreed a deal to supply fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). Iran had agreed a similar deal in principle with the E3+3 in October 2009, but subsequently backtracked. While this deal could still help to build confidence, the key question remains whether Iran will engage with the E3+3 on its nuclear programme as a whole. Until it does, we will continue to pursue further sanctions.

Agreement to export Low Enriched Uranium as part of a deal to resupply the Tehran Research Reactor is only positive if it paves the way to engagement on the nuclear programme.

The E3+3 has long sought to engage Iran in dialogue to address serious concerns about their nuclear programme. They have made several offers of incentives including on nuclear cooperation (2006 and 2008) in a bid to persuade Iran into negotiations. The E3+3 offer to meet remains on the table.

Published 25 May 2010