UK Tories call for tougher sanctions agains Iran

Defence spokesman for Britain's Opposition Conservatives calls for much tougher sanctions against 'biggest emerging threat'.

LONDON // The man who could be Britain's next defence secretary has called for much tougher sanctions against Iran, which he described as the "biggest single emerging threat" facing the world. The call from Liam Fox, the Conservatives' defence spokesman, came just hours after the US president had revealed that negotiations had been held with the Chinese and Russians over implementing a new sanctions regime against Tehran.

Speaking alongside the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, at the White House, Barack Obama said he hoped China and Russia would join the United States, France, Germany and Britain in implementing tougher sanctions within weeks. "My hope is that we are going to get this done this spring." However, there is no sign as yet that the Chinese will back a new round of sanctions. A foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing would only say: "At present, we hope that all sides will make substantive efforts and demonstrate flexibility over the Iran nuclear issue."

In his speech to Chatham House, an international think tank in London, Mr Fox warned that if Iran obtained nuclear weapons it could spark a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East. "Iran is the biggest single emerging threat that we face," he said. "And yet it is so little on the political radar." At the end of a meeting in Canada on Tuesday, foreign ministers from the G8 group of nations issued a statement saying they hoped "appropriate and strong steps" would be taken against Iran.

Mr Obama, however, remains concerned that many countries will not take action because they believe their commercial interests in Iran are more important than long-term political considerations.