Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki
Mike Hanna: To begin with, news of another round of meetings with US authorities. This is the fourth such meeting in the course of a year. Is there a thawing in the relations between the US and Iran?

Manouchehr Mottaki:  I thank you for this opportunity; as previously stipulated these discussions are concerning Iraq, which obviously Iraqi delegates would also participate in. The issue of bilateral relation between Iran and America is a separate independent issue that must be discussed and analyzed on its own. We are hopeful that the fourth round of discussions between Iran and America would be fruitful for the people of Iraq and for the government of Iraq and for some of the problems of Iraq, especially for the security related issues.

What can Iran offer in terms of creating stability within Iraq?

What has resulted in the complication of the issues in Iraq are the wrong policies exercised by the Americans in Iraq. If we were to compare what Mr Bush uttered three months after the invasion of Iraq in which he declared that - the mission in Iraq is accomplished - yet now we are approaching the fifth year of the presence of the foreign forces on Iraq's territory, while there is no serious sign of a solution for the problems of Iraq.

In other words there is no one who could tell us for how much longer the foreign forces will remain in Iraq. This proves that the occupiers' policies were wrong in Iraq. What we have tried to communicate to the Americans in our previous meetings is that they must change their policies on Iraq. They must make up for their wrong policies and adopt the right policy. In an event where these conditions are adopted naturally Iran would be able to play its constructive role in order to resolve the problems of Iraq in a much more active and serious manner.

Therefore Iran both in the framework of its relation with its neighbors and the framework of wider ranging meetings where the foreign ministers of the permanent Security Councils members as well as the G8 were present in Istanbul, participated in a committed and responsible manner.

In order to show that it has thought over the issue and has analyzed the issues it forwarded its 14 point plan to the meeting for further discussion. Prior to the meeting I sent my plan to the foreign ministers of the participating countries and requested that they should study it and forward their opinions to me.

The key issues for the solution of the crisis in Iraq are the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Iraq and the resolution to the security situation of the country. The Iraqi government must forward a plan stating the withdrawal date of the foreign forces from Iraq, and the UN must not renew and extend the presence of the foreign forces in Iraq as of that date. On the other hand we are committed to the disarming of militia forces in Iraq and they must be integrated in the armed forces, security forces and other government departments. The neighboring countries must also open their embassies in Bagdad as soon as possible.

And there are further problems inside Iraq related to the issue of the constitution concerning the boundaries of the provinces or the issue of Kerkok and other similar divisive issues.  We have proposed that they should be put on the backburner for a period of two years. Therefore I believe if all analyze, participate and work towards finding a practical solution to the problem of Iraq and ways to practically implement these plans there is the opportunity to reach a real resolution of the security situation is Iraq.  
You mention the question of militia there. Well the US has contended that Iran helps arm militias and supports them and thus feeds instability. Iran for its part says the presence of US forces is a creator of instability within Iraq. Given all of this, can Iraq solve its own problems? Can it achieve stability without outside interference?

The fact that America is raising certain allegations in Iraq is understandable. The American policies in Iraq after five years have failed therefore America is looking for scapegoats, it wants to blame others, so we understand their situation. It would be better for them to revise and correct their policies in Iraq.

As far as the security issues is concerned I stipulated earlier that Iraq must have one armed force, one security force, and all other groups must surrender based on the constitution and become part of the military and the security force. From the very onset we are of the belief that a government born out of the votes of the Iraqi people is more capable then the foreign forces to deal with the issue of security in the country. Therefore in this 14 point plan we proposed that until the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Iraq security matters should be handled by the government of Iraq. We are of the belief that the Iraqi government is better situated to confront the terrorist groups.

The question of Iraq is not the only one, that there are differences between the US and Iran. The other is that of nuclear disarmament. Is at any point Iran prepared to discuss the issue of nuclear disarmament directly with the United States?

The issue of Iraq is not an issue between Iran and America, and we cannot say that the second issue between Iran and America after Iraq is the nuclear issue. The issue of Iraq is a problem that the Americans are grappling with inside Iraq due to their wrong policies. Iran has continuously been part of the solution to the problems in the region. Iran has constantly supported the political process and the process of nation building in Iraq. We have supported the will of the people of Iraq and have not interfered in the internal issues of Iraq. We respect and support that which is the decision of the people of Iraq.

However on the issue of the nuclear matters:  What Iran is insisting on in regards to the nuclear issue is its legal rights.  No one says to us that we do not have this right, even in the resolutions that they issue, it is stipulated that the members of NTP have the right to nuclear energy. What we are saying is that this right must practically materialize. In the past we were of the assumption that with the help of some countries we could make use of this right of ours. Based on this assumption in the distant past we signed different nuclear cooperation agreements with countries such as America France and Germany. Our first cooperation agreement with America dates back fifty years, signed on the fifth of March 1957. We also had agreements with other countries such as France; we were 10% partners in Ordif nuclear plant for the enrichment of uranium for energy use. We had an agreement with Germany to build the Boosher nuclear plant and they started the project. However over time we found out that with the collapse of the Shah in Iran and the fulfillment of the will of the nation of Iran they did not honor their pledges. Therefore we no longer can trust them and do not have faith in fulfilling our rights through them. As a result we have begun to do it our selves and over the past years we have managed to develop an indigenous nuclear technology and now have enriched uranium.

From the beginning we have declared that our aim and purpose are peaceful and we are committed to the peaceful use of nuclear technology. From the onset the Americans asked, why do we want to have nuclear energy, Iran has oil; therefore it does not need nuclear energy they say. Conveniently they had forgotten that fifty years ago they had signed an agreement with us and pledged to produce 20 thousand megawatts electricity through nuclear stations in Iran. They have forgotten that they themselves produce 25% of their energy needs through nuclear plants.

When these issues were raised to them they conceded and said okay we have no problem with the production of nuclear energy in Iran but Iran must not be able to produce nuclear fuel. So we asked how are we to acquire nuclear fuel? They said we will guarantee our supply of nuclear fuel. We told them that in the past they had agreed to build for us here a nuclear plant and they did not honor their pledge and guaranties. We cannot trust them. Therefore we decided to produce our own nuclear fuel and as a result the process of uranium enrichment and production of nuclear fuel began in Iran. They said Iran wants to make nuclear weapons and this is the great lie that the Americans have tried to spread in the world public opinion. They tried to say Iran is after nuclear weapons. Our position both from the religious point of view and a very clear political analysis and understanding of the issue of nuclear weapons is very clear and precise. We are against the production and acquisition of nuclear weapons. Based on this position we are pro UN resolutions that insist on the reduction and decommissioning of nuclear weapons therefore our position in regards to nuclear weapons is clear.

Who should determine whether Iran had moved towards acquiring nuclear weapons? Who has the right to declare whether Iran had deviated from the peaceful use of nuclear technology? The UN watchdog for the nuclear weapons is very well known to the world community. The IAEA has this responsibility; unfortunately America and its allies in a political move shifted the matter to the UN Security Council.  We in the past six month have initiated a new path with IAEA and based on a model announced our readiness to answer the entire past questions on the issue of the nuclear program, though we had answered their question on ad hoc bases.  We reached an agreement with IAEA and they forwarded their questions in six parts and we answered their first part, Mr Albradai said there are no problems, the second part which were related to P1 and P2 and are the most important parts of the questions, we answered them too, and in the last report of the IAEA it was made clear that we have totally cooperated and that our response is in full compliance with the findings of IAEA.  This shows that Iran has not deviated in its nuclear activities. In less than three months we reached such a level that the remaining questions may only take two to three months to answer.

We call upon all parties to support this process and not to threaten Mr Albradai, they should aid and support this process to that the process runs its full due course. When this process runs its course and ends and if IAEA announces that it has analyzed all the answers and there is no deviation, then why is it that some parties are insisting to prove their lies? There is no reason for that, they could simply say we made a mistake or we thought Iran is moving towards weapons and now that IAEA is saying they are not moving towards weapons we accept that. In such an event the situation would normalize and we would be like any other country.  Then one has to see that all countries should cooperate with IAEA and they too should follow the normal course.

There is another nuclear power in the region and that is Israel. The US contends that Iranian nuclear capability is a threat to Israel, that Iran would use nuclear weaponry against Israel. Is there any fundamental base to that kind of allegation?

When we say that the discussion in Iran is a discussion on nuclear energy and not on nuclear weapons then there is no room for Iran to be concerned on the issue of nuclear weapons. However the second point to which you pointed, yes it is a threat to the region. The very presence of that regime in this region with its nuclear warheads remains a threat to the area. At the same time we are of the opinion that today nuclear weapons could not be a good solution to any crisis. If nuclear weapons are a good solution to crisis then they should have prevented the collapse of the former Soviet Union. They should have helped in the last summer war of the Zionist regime when it invaded Lebanon. They should have helped America in its war in Iraq. We believe that nuclear weapons do not help in resolving of crisis.

You mentioned the issue of Lebanon. You’ve had a meeting recently with your Syrian counterpart concerning that particular issue. What can Iran and its close ally Syria do in terms of help resolving that ongoing dispute within Lebanon?

Yesterday I spoke to Mr Banki moon the UN secretary general in depth on the phone and as you said I had discussions with the foreign ministers of Syria, France and Saudi Arabia in the past weeks. We are of the belief that the problem has a Lebanese solution, and the different parties in Lebanon do have the ability, the know how and the capacity to reach a negotiated settlement provided there is no foreign interference.

That is why we have supported the position of Mr Nabi Berry which calls for an agreed settlement for the post of presidency. And we continue to support that position. We hope that in the remaining days in the course of their discussions they reach an agreement to appoint a president through consensus, a person who can play a role in the safeguarding of the unity of Lebanon and safeguarding all the parties of Lebanon. We cannot do much in practical terms, except to encourage all parties to aim to solve this problem through the process of discussions and negotiations which are the most appropriate formula in reaching agreement on the presidency.

What can Iran do to bring about peace within the region? What can your actions do to help resolve the many disputes that are occurring at present?

The nation of Iran is a peace seeking nation. It's a nation that believes in dialogue and friendship with its neighbors, its region and the world. You have seen the background of Iran is one of peace and friendship even though continuous wars in the course of history have been imposed on us. In the last 30 years Iran has been part of the solutions to the problems of the region. For instance  in the case of Afghanistan, the invasion of Kuwait and also the issue of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Tajikistan as well as other regional crises we tried to play a constructive role for the sake of peace. At the same time we believe that peace must have the right foundation and therefore we believe that justice is the fundamental pillar of peace. If peace is pursued and it is not attained then we should doubt the declared intentions that are announced.

Therefore we do not see any success coming out of the Annapolis meeting because those who are the organizers of the Annapolis meetings are not after peace. They are after the reconstruction of the broken and defeated image of the Zionist regime in the region which is totally determined on the demise of the nation of Palestine. The participants of the Annapolis meetings must tell their people what these meetings actually achieve.  They need to make clear what rights of the Palestinians they restored. The answer to this question is historic and very important.

Iran through the UN resolution 598 and its eighth clause which is related to the regional security, and through cooperation in bilateral relations with its neighbors as well as the through GCC - tries to extend its cooperation in the economical, social and security fields. It is through such a framework that we could reach the desired security in the region and in such a case there would be no need for the presence of the foreign forces in the region. The foreign forces sooner or later must leave our region and the countries of the region will then live in peace and prosperity.

Source: Al Jazeera