Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference concluding visit to Iran

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: British Embassy, Tehran
Source: The Times, 2 May 1978
Journalist: David Watts, The Times, reporting
Editorial comments: 1915-2000.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 366
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Mrs Thatcher calls for production of neutron bomb

On a three-day visit to Iran Mrs Margaret Thatcher, the Leader of the Opposition, came out strongly yesterday in support of production of the neutron bomb in order to prevent the Soviet Union gaining a strategic advantage over the West in Europe.

The Opposition leader said that not to produce the weapon would be to play into the hands of the Russians.

“I believe that the Russians do not want it to be built because it would give the West an advantage over them” , she told a press conference at the British Embassy.

However, she took comfort in the fact that no final decision on production of the weapon had yet been made by the United States and its allies. She said that the Western powers should concede nothing, either over the neutron bomb or at the strategic arms limitation talks (Salt) before the Soviet Union offered something in return.

“The Russians have huge multi-headed missiles much more destructive than the neutron bomb and they are not even covered by the Salt negotiations” , she said.

As those of a potential prime minister, Mrs Thatcher's words were undoubtedly comforting to Iranian ears when taken in conjunction with her speech to the Irano-British Chamber of Commerce in which she warned of the perils of the new imperialism in Africa, as the Shah has frequently done.

Speaking to a Chamber lunch, Mrs Thatcher noted that the Cuban role in Angola had given the West due warning.

“Events in the Horn of Africa confirm what we are up against: Powers which accept no limits to their aim to dominate other people's, either directly or by proxy or by subversion.

“The time has come for all who are concerned for the peace and stability of Africa to join together in resisting this new imperialism. As the Shah has put it, there is need for the Western powers to collect themselves and draw a line beyond which they are not willing to retreat.”

Mrs Thatcher's first official visit to Iran, which has concentrated on industrial visits and which ends tomorrow, has been a low-key affair with the press kept at a distance.

Even at her press briefing last night Mrs Thatcher was not very forthcoming about her talks with the Shah and other leading Iranians