Matthew Gould
Photo: Mati Milstein

British ambassador discusses Iran in Haifa

Matthew Gould speaks to students at Haifa University day after IAEA report, says more economic sanctions best course of action

British Ambassador Matthew Gould gave a lecture at the Haifa University titled "Iran, Israel and the West" a day after the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report indicating Tehran was working to produce atomic weapons.


Gould opened by saying that Britain shares Israel's concerns with regards to Iran, and stressed that the Islamic Republic must not be allowed to produce nuclear weapons.


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The ambassador also shared some experiences from his service in Iran, between 2003 and 2005. He said British embassy officials had a hard time scheduling meetings with Iranian government officials – adding that the Iranians were not keen on meeting diplomats – particularly British ones.


Gould said jokingly that in Iran he found it difficult to get people to talk, while in Israel he has a hard time getting people to shut up.


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Addressing the IAEA report, the British envoy said it underscores the West's justification for being concerned over Iran's nuclear program, adding that there was no magic solution, as he put it, to the issue.


The British diplomat stressed that an attack on Iran would carry a heavy price, and said that for the time being the UK favors further economic sanctions against Iran.


Gould said the ramifications of a nuclear Iran would be global as well as regional, adding that additional countries are sure to feel threatened by such a development and launch their own nuclear programs.


The ambassador stressed that while Britain and the US are committed to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, it was still not too late for the Islamic Republic to change its course and act in accordance with the norms of the international community.


Last week the Guardian reported that the UK was stepping up its contingency planning for a possible strike against Iran. According to the report, the British Defense Ministry believes Washington may decide to "fast forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities."


According to the Guardian, "In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign.


"They also believe the US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East," the report stated.


Earlier on Wednesday Gould criticized a bill banning foreign funding to Israeli organizations.


Gould told the bill's initiator MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) that Britain has genuine concerns over the issue. He said the UK endorses human rights all across the globe and that its policy is not directed against the government of Israel. He warned that the bill will have a negative effect on Israel within the international community.


The Knesset Committee on Legislative Affairs will discuss the bill on Sunday. It proposes barring foreign governments and international organizations from contributing to leftist organizations, and both Netanyahu and Foreign Minister are expected to back the bill.


The bill's brief said that it "seeks to bar Israeli organizations from accepting donations from governments and international bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union, in light of the inciting activities by many groups that operate under the guise of 'human rights groups' and wish to affect the political discourse and even the very nature of the State of Israel."


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    פרסום ראשון: 11.09.11, 15:07
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