U.K. foreign secretary says must not concede too far on Iran talks

Iran and six powers failed last month to resolve a 12-year stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions

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Britain and other powers negotiating with Iran for a deal over its nuclear program, which they suspect is aimed at building a bomb, must not make "unwise concessions" for the sake of convenience, Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said on Saturday.

Iran and six powers - the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany - failed last month to resolve a 12-year stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, and gave themselves seven more months to clinch an historic deal.

"We must choose persistence over convenience ... upholding our principle position on enrichment rather than succumbing to the temptation to make unwise concessions to get a deal done," Hammond told a security conference in Bahrain.

The nuclear talks were closely watched by Gulf Arab countries which are not only concerned about the possibility of Iran developing an atomic bomb, something it denies it wants, but fear a deal could give Iran more scope to project influence in Arab states.

Bahrain has accused Iran of involvement in planned attacks in the country, while fellow Gulf monarchies Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are backing rebels in Syria seeking the overthrow of Tehran's ally President Bashar al-Assad.

Hammond said Britain's ultimate objective in the talks was an agreement that ensures Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons capability, but moved to reassure Gulf allies by adding that he shared their security concerns.

Britain said on Friday it had sealed a deal to expand and reinforce its naval presence in Bahrain that would allow it to operate more and bigger ships in the Gulf on a long-term basis.

Hammond said the agreement would create a permanent home for the Royal Navy in Bahrain, the U.S. Fifth Fleet is already based, and that the base would accommodate new aircraft carriers and Type 45 destroyers.

Speaking at the same conference in Manama on Saturday, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa accused Iran of "engaging with proxies and people who carry weapons" in the region and said it should seek a more positive role.

However, Hammond added that he believed that if a nuclear deal was concluded, it could help to reduce friction between Iran and other countries.

"There are many bases of mistrust between Iran and its neighbors in the Gulf, between Iran and the West, but the nuclear file is the key element here," he said.

"If we can resolve that in a way that is satisfactory to Iran and satisfactory to the west, a series of things will then happen and they'll happen quite quickly which will change the dynamics and create an opportunity," he added.

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