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Hague says Brown has "simultaneously disappointed the Americans, upset the Europeans and handed Iran a publicity coup'

At the Joint Press Conference with President Bush on Monday, Gordon Brown announced that:

"Today Britain will urge Europe and Europe will agree to take further sanctions against Iran. First of all, we will take action today that will freeze the overseas assets of the biggest bank in Iran, the bank Melli. And second, action will start today for a new phase of sanctions on oil and gas.”

But no action has been taken by the EU or by Britain to freeze the assets of Bank Melli or impose sanctions on Iranian oil and gas. Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague asked Miliband to explain this in the Commons today:

"The steps the Prime Minister announced have not been taken. According to press reports, the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, explicitly denied that any agreement on sanctions had been reached.

The Financial Times today points out that Bank Melli is working in exactly the same way today as it worked yesterday. Its offices in London are open, it can use its assets in whatever way it likes, and indeed may be in the process of moving a lot of them to Dubai.

The FT also quotes a US diplomat who said that Mr Brown was ‘wrong’. ‘He made an incorrect statement’. ‘The problem is that the US delegation and the US press believed him’. He said ‘On the scale of diplomatic blunders, this is a seven out of 10’.

The Iranian Foreign Minister, quoted in the Iranian press today, said that “The European officials have rejected Brown’s statements and have announced that there is no new decision for intensifying sanctions against Iran.

There may be an explanation for these event of which the public is not aware. However the government appears to have simultaneously disappointed the Americans, upset the Europeans and handed Iran a publicity coup.”

If it is indeed the case, the Government will have taken the conduct of the foreign policy of this country to a whole new level of blundering incompetence. We expect a full explanation about what has happened, and I will be writing to the Foreign Secretary today to seek this."


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