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MI6 Chief says Spying Crucial to Stop Iran Nuclear Drive - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) chief John Sawers addresses a live televised gathering of academics, officials and editors in London. (R)

Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) chief John Sawers addresses a live televised gathering of academics, officials and editors in London. (R)

LONDON (AFP) – Diplomacy is not enough to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons, the head of the country’s foreign spy service said Thursday, urging an “intelligence-led” approach to stopping nuclear proliferation.

In an unprecedented public speech, MI6 chief John Sawers said that intelligence activities were responsible for Iran’s admission last year of a second enrichment plant, which in turn led to tougher diplomatic pressure.

“Stopping nuclear proliferation cannot be addressed purely by conventional diplomacy. We need intelligence-led operations to make it more difficult for countries like Iran to develop nuclear weapons,” he said.

Sawers’ comments come as six world powers seek to resume talks with Iran over its nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is for civilian purposes but which Western powers suspect is intended to develop atomic weapons.

The UN Security Council voted for fresh sanctions against Iran in June, the fourth set since December 2006 over its nuclear programme.

“The revelations around Iran’s secret enrichment site at Qom were an intelligence success. They led to diplomatic pressure on Iran intensifying, with tougher UN and EU sanctions, which are beginning to bite,” Sawers said.

“The Iranian regime must think hard about where its best interests lie.”

He added: “The risks of failure in this area are grim…. And the longer international efforts delay Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons technology, the more time we create for a political solution to be found.”

Iran notified the UN nuclear watchdog in September last year that it was building a second enrichment plant near the central city of Qom, after Washington accused it of covertly evading its responsibilities under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Sawers’ speech was the first public address by a head of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), as MI6 is officially known, and marked his first year in the role.

File photo shows the Iranian flag fluttering over the reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. (AFP)

File photo shows the Iranian flag fluttering over the reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. (AFP)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his Bolivian counterpart, Evo Morales, attend a friendly soccer match, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his Bolivian counterpart, Evo Morales, attend a friendly soccer match, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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