HC Deb 23 July 2002 vol 389 cc845-6
17. Mr. Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green)

If he will make a statement on bilateral relations with Iran. [69593]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien)

The UK, through critical engagement, seeks to apply a twin-track approach in respect of Iran. We support reform in Iran while maintaining a robust dialogue on matters of concern, such as human rights and weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. McCabe

The US State Department and Israeli intelligence have warned that Iran is a state that sponsors terrorism. In view of that, and of Iran's developing nuclear and chemical weapons and its appalling human rights record—with almost daily public executions and floggings, sometimes for the most trivial offences, such as playing snooker—why is Iran a friend, yet Iraq, which has a remarkably similar record, is an enemy and a threat?

Mr. O'Brien

At least in Iran, unlike Iraq, the Government are led by a reformist President democratically elected by the people of Iran. The UK supports President Khatami's stated objective of a civil society based on the rule of law. The UK remains committed to a policy of critical engagement, which allows us to support reform in Iran while maintaining robust pressure in relation to issues of concern, such as those mentioned by my hon. Friend. Those issues include Iranian support for terrorist groups in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran's reported development of weapons of mass destruction and aspects of its human rights record. We believe that constructive and critical engagement is the best way forward.