Brown threatens Iran with sanctions at the Knesset

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown strongly warned Iran against pursuing its nuclear enrichment program in a speech at the Israeli Knesset. He also pledged more aid for Palestinian development and called for a halt to Israeli settlements.


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned Iran on Monday it must freeze sensitive nuclear work or face more sanctions, in the first address by a British premier to the Israeli parliament.

He also railed against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "abhorrent" threats against Israel and declared that Britain stands alongside the Jewish state.

Brown, who held talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Sunday, said peace was within their grasp, but only if Israel withdraws from settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Palestinians stamp out "terrorists".

His comments on Iran's nuclear drive echoed a warning by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Tehran had two weeks to respond seriously to an international offer or face further "punitive measures."

"Iran now has a clear choice to make: suspend its nuclear programme and accept our offer of negotiations or face growing isolation and the collective response not of just one nation but of all nations round the world," Brown said.

"Just as we have led the work on three mandatory sanctions resolutions of the UN, the UK will continue to lead -- with the United States and our European Union partners -- in our determination to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapons programme."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel "highly appreciates" Brown's "determination... (on the) issue of terrorism and Iranian nuclear armament.

"The most serious threat for stability in the Middle East and the global peace is rooted in... Tehran," he added.

Brown was introduced by parliament speaker Dalia Itzhik, who said "the Iranian nuclear spearhead is directed not only towards Israel but towards the entire West."

Tehran is "inciting genocide and they are about to complete the last stages of nuclear weaponry. Many are trying to reassure us that the Shoah (Holocaust) will not be repeated," she said.

Brown's spokesman said the premier did not rule out "extended sanctions in some form on the oil and gas sector" in Iran, OPEC's number two producer.

"Our focus at the moment is on strengthening the sanctions regime to keep up the pressure on Iran," he said.

Sources said that could involve sanctions on spare parts for Tehran's fairly limited domestic oil refining capacity.

In his speech, Brown also took on Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly attacked Israel's right to exist and said its arch-foe should be wiped off the map.

"To those who question Israel's very right to exist, and threaten the lives of your citizens through terror, we say: the people of Israel have a right to live here, to live freely and to live in security," he said.

"And to those who believe that threatening statements fall upon indifferent ears, we say in one voice: it is totally abhorrent for the president of Iran to call for Israel to be wiped from the map of the world."

He added: "Let me tell the people of Israel today: Britain is your true friend."

Brown, on his first visit to Israel and the West Bank since becoming prime minister in June 2007, held talks with leaders on both sides on Sunday in a  bid to help advance the faltering peace process.

US-led negotiations were revived in November but have made little visible progress since, with Israel's continued settlement expansion in the West Bank a key bone of contention.

Brown, whose predecessor Tony Blair is now the Middle East Quartet's envoy,  has pledged new aid for the Palestinians to help kick-start their struggling economy while calling for Israel to halt settlement activity.

"I believe that a historic, hard-won and lasting peace that can bring security on the ground is within your grasp... I urge you to take it by the hand," Brown told the Knesset.

However, it depended on the Palestinians stamping out "terrorists" and "Israel freezing, and withdrawing from, settlements".

"Now is the time to contruct the last building block of peace with the Palestinians," said Brown.

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