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Gordon Brown 'will back air strikes on Iran'

Daily Telegraph
08 October 2007
By Tim Shipman in Washington
Gordon Brown has agreed to support US air strikes against Iran if the Islamic republic orchestrates large-scale attacks by militants against British or American forces in Iraq, according to senior Pentagon officials.
Washington sources say the Prime Minister has been informed of US plans to launch limited air and special forces raids against Revolutionary Guard bases.
After talks with President George W Bush in July, Mr Brown left US officials with the belief that Britain was "on board" for a military response - but only if Iran was proved to be behind a big militant attack or another stunt similar to the kidnapping in March of British sailors.
The US wants Britain's Special Air Service Regiment to take part in special forces raids inside Iran and has requested help from the Royal Navy to combat Iranian retaliation in the Gulf. But no decisions have been made.
Mr Brown made clear to Mr Bush that he would not support a campaign to destroy Iran's nuclear programme and bring about regime change in Teheran.
But Pentagon officials say he did indicate he would be prepared to back strikes in certain circumstances.
Vincent Cannistraro, a former White House intelligence chief in close contact with senior Pentagon officials, said: "The British understand there's a possible need to strike - not strategic bombing of nuclear sites but facilities in Iran in support of Iraqi elements. This understanding was reached shortly after Brown took office."
The threat of action has been passed to the Iranian government and is credited with slowing the flood of Iranian weapons into Iraq.
The suggestion that Mr Brown has discussed air strikes will anger critics who believe Tony Blair was too quick to approve military action against Iraq.
A Downing Street spokesman said: "While we won't comment on the specifics of conversations between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States, this is not a version of events we recognise."
A source close to Mr Brown said the two had talked about Iran but "we have not had this conversation".
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