Australia blocks Iran shipments over weapons fears: PM
Sydney: Australia has blocked three cargo shipments to Iran under laws aimed at preventing nuclear proliferation, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Thursday.
Defence Minister John Faulkner invoked the rarely used Weapons of Mass Destruction Act to block the shipments, Rudd said.
"If you look at the threat to regional and global peace which Iran poses in its current nuclear weapons programme, there is no alternative other than robust international action including in areas such as this," Rudd told public broadcaster ABC.
"We believe that national security, the national security interests of Australia, also demand this course of action," he added.
The centre-left leader would not be drawn on the contents of the shipments, saying only that Australia had acted "because we believe we must play the role of a responsible international citizen."
The Australian newspaper reported that at least one of the banning orders, all made in recent months, blocked a cargo of pumps which could have been used to cool nuclear power plants.
"If you look at the status of Iran's nuclear weapons programme, and their consistent thumbing of the nose to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the international community more broadly... there are no alternatives other than to maintain a hard line," Rudd said.
The United States and key allies on Wednesday urged Iran to follow up on a surprise statement from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by formally committing to a UN-brokered deal to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.
Ahmadinejad's apparent overture was overshadowed by a rocket launch into space, which heightened fears Iran was developing ballistic weapons and was condemned by the White House as "a provocative act”.
The West fears Tehran's uranium enrichment programme is masking efforts to produce atomic weapons, a claim vehemently rejected by the Islamic republic.
Iran strongly denies that either its space or atomic energy programmes are intended to build a bomb.