Insurgents ‘biggest threat’ to UK

The most serious danger Britain faces today is from insurgencies led by religious extremists in Iraq and Syria, David Cameron has warned.

The Prime Minister insisted the prospect of battle-hardened jihadists returning to the UK was a “real threat to our country”.

But he denied that the Government was restoring diplomatic links with neighbouring Iran in a bid to win Tehran’s help to quell the spread of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) militants. Speaking at a joint press conference with Chinese premier Li Keqiang, Mr Cameron said: “No one should be in any doubt that what we see in Syria and now in Iraq in terms of Isis is the most serous threat to Britain’s security that there is today.

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“The number of foreign fighters in that area, the number of foreign fighters including those from the UK who could try to return to the UK this is a real threat to our country.

“We will do absolutely everything we can to keep our people safe. That means stopping people from going, it means arresting people who are involved in plots, it means focusing our security, our policing, our intelligence effort on to that area of the world, on to those people.”

The comments came after Foreign Secretary William Hague said the “circumstances are right” to re-open the embassy in Tehran, which closed after being ransacked by a mob protesting against sanctions in 2011.

“There has never been any doubt in my mind that we should have an embassy in Tehran if the circumstances allowed,” Mr Hague told MPs.

“Iran is an important country in a volatile region, and maintaining embassies around the world, even under difficult conditions, is a central pillar of the UK’s global diplomatic approach.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband welcomed the decision to re-open the embassy.

In a speech to Labour Friends of Israel, Mr Miliband said: “While it is absolutely right to remain deeply sceptical about the nature of the regime, we support the Government’s decision today to reopen the embassy as a means of engagement.

“As (shadow Foreign Secretary) Douglas Alexander said yesterday, the priority now must be to promote the political integrity of Iraq, to help the Iraqi government through support and advice and do everything we can to provide humanitarian assistance.

“Nobody should be in any doubt about the seriousness of the situation and the priority it demands from the world.”

The insurgency by Isis still rages on, with more evidence emerging of executions. Experts suggest Iran could play a vital role in helping to shore up the government in Baghdad. But Mr Cameron has rejected the idea that the diplomatic rapprochement was connected to the crisis.

President Barack Obama announced this week that 275 military personnel could deploy to provide support and security for the US embassy and its staff in Baghdad.

The Iraqi government has asked America to carry out air strikes against the insurgents.

Secretary of State John Kerry indicated the administration is “open to discussions” with Iran if it can help end the violence, and he would not rule out military co-operation. Mr Kerry said: “I would not rule out anything that would be constructive in providing real stability, a respect for the constitution, a respect for the election process and a respect for the ability of the Iraqi people to form a government that represents all the interests of Iraq.”