An interview with Saeed Jalili, Iran's deputy foreign minister

(source: Boston Globe)
Monday, December 25, 2006

TEHRAN -- Saeed Jalili, Iran's deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs, spoke with the Boston Globe's James F. Smith about Iranian-US relations and other issues on Dec. 18. Here are excerpts:

Q. Iran often says there are benefits to US sanctions against Iran. But what are the costs?

A. Our nation has had to face a 27-year-long embargo against this country.

We are familiar not only with the sanctions, but other forms of pressures against our country. The most important was the imposed eight-year war by the Saddam Hussein regime. People acknowledge clearly that Iran today is much more powerful, much more capable, and much more developed. Those countries who put an embargo against Iran have merely put sanctions against themselves. They deprive themselves of the chance to get involved with Iran.

Q. The American anger over the nuclear issue with Iran seems to be an expression of a deeper mistrust, because the US tolerates nuclear weapons in other countries. With Iran, is there not an underlying mistrust flowing from Iran's support for Hezabollah and Hamas? Is that the underlying concern, and is there something Iran can do about it?

A. On the issue of suspension [of uranium enrichment], We voluntarily suspended our enrichment activities for two years. What was the result of the measures by Iran? {The International Atomic Energy Agency]has said they have found no evidence that shows Iranian diversion from peaceful nuclear energy. Then why should this go to the UN Security Council?

Every country that wants to can come and take part in our peaceful nuclear energy activities, and also can have ownership participation in peaceful nuclear industry. This is a very significant proposal. What was the result? They sent the Iran case to the Security Council.

You know that under the Shah, US companies had the contracts to build nuclear power plants in Iran. Since then, our population has doubled.

According to our 20-year outlook for development, we need 20,000 megawatts of electricity to expand our industry.

Q. So what should the US do right now as a confidence-building measure?

A. We have a proverb in Farsi: 'We don't have any hope for benefits. Just don't hurt us.' We believe weapons of mass destruction do not provide authority or security for any country. This comes from a government's relations with the nation. Now you can see the same story in Palestine. The Zionist regime apparently has declared it has got nuclear weapons. And the supporters of the usurper regime, America and England, have nuclear weapons. Why can they not solve this crisis? The time of nuclear weapons is finished.

Q. So Iran has no interest or intention to develop nuclear weapons?

A. Not at all. We consider it unhumanitarian, illogical, inefficient, and illegitimate. If weapons of mass destruction would be the way to resolve the Palestine issue, it should be settled already. Conventional weapons couldn't solve it, either. We think the issue of Palestine has a democratic solution. Whatever we put forward is totally and completely democratic.

Agressions, threats and war do not provide legitimate rights.

We should simply provide opportunities for the refugees to come back to their homeland and participate in a democratic referendum and have self-determination there. And the people of these lands should determine the future of these lands by themselves, including Jews and Christians and Muslims. There is no discussion or threat of military actions.

Q. But how can Iran and the United States break this deadlock and get past the historical issues and get to the current issues between them?

A. If the United States just corrects its behavior against Iran, we can open the door. Why we have got this animosity from the United States towards Iran for 27 years? It is the great question for the Iranian nation....

This is a good opportunity for confidence-building by the US toward Iran, to correct its previous behavior against Iran on the nuclear issue, and do not try to prevent Iran from having peaceful access to nuclear energy. The cost of the sanctions is being paid by American companies that can't invest in Iran's energy industry and oil fields.

Q. But the US says the West offered Iran a generous package of incentives last summer as an alternative to confrontation?

A. When they offered the package, many countries recommended that we respond. We said we would respond by Aug. 22. We were preparing to respond when they sent our file to the UN. They didn't wait even to receive our response. In 10 days, would we have made a bomb? Why didn't they wait if there was really good will? It is not a discussion, it is dictation. ...

The book published by President Carter is very understanding of these issues. But in America, nobody dares to drink water without the permission of Israel.

Q. So what is necessary to break through this?

A. First, on the broader principles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty , they should respect our rights. And we are ready to have the confidence building to show that we are not diverting from the peaceful production any material. The IAEA said they didn't find one document showing any diversion from our peaceful program. Some of the great powers know this and they have made clear that they didn't want confidence building - they just want to deprive Iran of its inalienable rights.

And after 50 years, we do hope the US apologizes for the [1953] coup provoked by the US against Iran. They should not miss this time, they should not miss the opportunity.

Q. Why would Iran stage the recent Holocaust conference when it was obviously going to provoke much anger in Europe and the United States? Why be so provocative?

A. The issue dates back to last year. Our president just put forward one logical question: Where did the Holocaust happen? In Europe? Why should Palestinians pay the price of the revenge of this Holocaust? They say that we are ashamed of all the behavior that was done by the leaders of that time. Why should the Palestinians pay the cost? If one catastrophe happened, is that a reason to have a second or a future catastrophe? One catastrophe cannot be a reason for another in Palestine. Is this behavior deserved by human beings in the 21st century?

We don't have any problem with Jewish society. For 1,000 years Jewish people have lived in Iran. There are no pogroms against Jewish nationals in Iran. In Iran, the Jewish population, of just 35,000, has a seat in Parliament. This shows our commitment to human rights and rights of the minority, especially the Jewish nationals in Iran.


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