The Middle East could be the battleground for a new cold war, if Iran succeeds in acquiring nuclear weapons, Britain's foreign secretary has warned.
William Hague said the world would face the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since the invention of the atomic bomb, which would be a "disaster in world affairs".
Hague's comments come as officials in Washington expressed fears that Iran is ignoring economic sanctions, increasing the likelihood of Israel and or the US attacking the Islamic Republic this year.
Hague insisted the UK did not currently support military action against Iran but added "all options must remain on the table". “(The Iranians) are clearly continuing their nuclear weapons programme,” Hague told the Daily Telegraph. “If they obtain nuclear weapons capability, then I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons.”
“And so, the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented would have begun with all the destabilising effects in the Middle East. And the threat of a new cold war in the Middle East without necessarily all the safety mechanisms. That would be a disaster in world affairs.”
Hague's desire to give economic sanctions time to work is reflected in Washington. However, officials in key parts of the Obama administration are increasingly convinced that sanctions will not deter Tehran from pursuing its nuclear programme. They believe the US will be left with no option but to launch an attack on Iran or watch Israel do so.
Obama has made clear that he is determined to give sufficient time to Iran before launching its full-blown offensive.