Hasan Suroor

LONDON: As representatives from America, Russia, China, France and Germany gathered here on Monday to formulate a common response to the controversy over Iran's nuclear programme, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said it was for Teheran to assure the international community about its intentions.

Britain, which is hosting the meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, is strongly in favour of referring Iran to the U.N. though it has sought to play down suggestions that the West is seeking a confrontation with Iran.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mr. Straw have said they are not immediately seeking economic sanctions against Iran but believe that its decision to break the seals on a nuclear site warrants an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency to discuss a referral to the U.N.

Barring Russia and China, others attending the meeting favour referring Iran to the U.N. but observers said there was no appetite even in America for military intervention.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who was in London to attend a meeting on terrorism, told the BBC that the West was partly to blame for the crisis by allowing Israel to develop nuclear weapons.

In a separate interview to The Times, he said: "Nobody mentions that Israel has 100 nuclear weapons in stock even though it is an open secret.''

The Prince urged Iran not to join the nuclear race and said: "We are urging Iran to accept the position that we have taken to make the Gulf, as part of the Middle East [West Asia], nuclear-free and free of weapons of mass destruction." We hope that they will join us in this policy and assure us that no new threat of arms race happens in this region.''