Interview With Iranian Foreign Minister-'We Are Prepared for Everything'
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
In an interview with SPIEGEL, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, 62,
dismisses accusations that Iran is building a nuclear bomb as Western
propaganda and accuses Tehran's enemies of waging a secret war against it.
SPIEGEL: Anyone reading the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
report can't help but wonder how long it will be until Iran completes its
first nuclear bomb.
Salehi: Our revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa, a
ruling according to religious law, describing nuclear weapons as un-Islamic.
They are "haram," forbidden, which means these weapons of mass destruction
play no role in our defense strategy. That's the truth, and anything else is
SPIEGEL: Evidence indicating a secret nuclear program is overwhelming. The
IAEA report includes a 12-page appendix laying out substantial evidence that
makes it impossible to draw any other conclusion: Iran wants the bomb.
Salehi: That allegation is unfair and unjustified. The report seems to be
interpreting many things, which is dangerous. The IAEA risks its credibility
by making such interpretations.
SPIEGEL: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano stresses in the report his
"serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear
Salehi: The IAEA is acting under pressure from certain countries ...
SPIEGEL: ... You mean Israel and its ally, the United States ...
Salehi: ... so we are prepared for everything. But we have no fear of the
discussion at the IAEA concerning this document. Mr. Amano is facing
difficult times. We will hold him and the IAEA accountable for their
SPIEGEL: The report says its information is drawn from multiple, independent
sources, including evidence provided by more than 10 member states, as well
as the IAEA's own information.
Salehi: These so-called facts are nothing new. Amano's predecessor, Mohamed
ElBaradei, knew the basic facts as well. We previously responded in a
117-page statement, but ElBaradei didn't draw the same conclusions as Amano
now. The IAEA has let go of its former objectivity.
SPIEGEL: The international community has good reason to mistrust Iran,
considering how often your government has provided false information
concerning its nuclear program.
Salehi: We have never provided false information. We have always cooperated
with the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the IAEA treaty.
But if more is demanded of us than the international treaties stipulate,
then we refuse.
SPIEGEL: Your criticism notwithstanding, this report threatens to bring
another round of sanctions. Do you really expect the people of your country
to put up with an intensified economic boycott?
Salehi: These are inconveniences we're willing to accept. With 3,000 years
of history behind us, 30 or even 50 years spent under an embargo are a mere
footnote. We won't give up our independence and we will continue our
civilian nuclear program. There is great unanimity on this point both within
our government and among the people.
SPIEGEL: Instead of criticizing the nuclear weapons inspectors' report, you
might do better to offer your suggestions on how to solve this conflict.
Salehi: Several countries, including Iran, have proposed approaches that
could have led to a satisfactory solution. There was, for example, Turkey
and Brazil's initiative for the removal of enriched material, which was
initially well received by US President Barack Obama, but then never came to
pass. A suggestion from Russia was likewise ignored. We also discontinued
uranium enrichment as a trust-building measure, but were never thanked for
doing so. Do you honestly believe further suggestions will yield results? I
believe there's no longer any point in making additional concessions. The
nuclear question is simply a pretense for weakening us by any means
SPIEGEL: And you want to use any means possible to gain time in which to
continue enriching uranium, bringing yourselves a step closer to building a
Salehi: As a nuclear scientist, I can't conceive what uranium enrichment for
civilian purposes is meant to have to do with building a bomb. The Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty expressly allows us to enrich uranium. We even
signed the treaty's Additional Protocol to satisfy skeptics.
SPIEGEL: You can't dispel the suspicions that you're abusing your right to
Salehi: It's good we're talking about abuse. What is it that gives some
nations the right to use computer viruses against us and murder our nuclear
scientists, while still claiming to work for human rights?
SPIEGEL: Israel's government fears nothing more than a nuclear bomb in your
government's hands, and appears to be preparing an attack on your nuclear
Salehi: We don't anticipate an attack. Israel knows how delicate the
situation is. As proof that our nuclear program is peaceful in nature, we
have established the conditions necessary for the required IAEA monitoring.
I'd also like to point out here that no other country has worked as
intensively with the IAEA in this area as the Islamic Republic of Iran.
SPIEGEL: So you claim.
Salehi: During the most recent visit from Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA's head
of nuclear inspections, we cooperated with the inspectors beyond the scope
of our obligations. Mr. Nackaerts and his boss, Mr. Amano, even thanked us
for our cooperation.
SPIEGEL: The United States and Europe are determined to keep Iran from
carrying out further uranium enrichment. You'll have to come around
Salehi: No, we won't have to, and I'd like to point you to our history as
proof. From its creation to the present day, the Islamic Republic of Iran
has never given in to those who wanted to force it to do something. But
those who met the country with logic and fair-mindedness instead of a double
standard have always been able to count on Iran's cooperation.
SPIEGEL: On the contrary, your unwillingness to cooperate suggests you're
very much looking for the situation to escalate. There are certainly radical
elements in Iran for whom an attack on their own country would be a
Salehi: Those beating the drums of war are the same people who want to slow
our progress. Iraq under Saddam Hussein forced us into an eight-year war. We
don't want another war. Every politician in our country shares this opinion.
But if we are attacked, we do know how to defend ourselves. Every attack, of
any kind, will meet with retaliation. Immediately, without a second's
SPIEGEL: You have also had to face accusations of state-sponsored terrorism.
Just a few weeks ago, the US accused your Quds Force, an elite unit of
Revolutionary Guards, of planning an assassination attempt on Saudi Arabia's
ambassador in Washington, Adel al-Jubeir.
Salehi: Not a single document supports that claim. The entire thing was
staged by Washington. It's a farce with an unemployed loser as the supposed
hit man, and it provides the US with a diversionary tactic to distract from
the financial crisis. The US government is presumably also hoping to destroy
relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two brother nations in Islam. Don't
forget, the US also justified its war against Iraq with falsified evidence.
SPIEGEL: After the plot was uncovered in mid-October, you promised to
investigate the accusations. Where are the results?
Salehi: So far, our investigations have shown only that all of it must be a
completely invented story. The main suspect in the affair has denied all
accusations in court in the US. Why would we commit such a pointless act? In
fact, we insist that the US apologize.
SPIEGEL: Accusations of state-sponsored terrorism in Iran are nothing new.
Your intelligence services have been involved in assassinations outside your
country several times.
Salehi: The Islamic Republic of Iran itself has been the victim of terrorism
in the past three decades and has suffered many losses in combating it. We
recently held a conference in Tehran on combating terrorism. All of these
are illogical accusations.
SPIEGEL: Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly
confirmed the accusations concerning the planned assassination. Are you
claiming both of them have been deceived by their own intelligence agents?
Salehi: All of these measures are part of an American strategy of tacit
warfare against Iran. They want to present us to the world as evildoers,
while distracting people in the West from their own terrorist activities,
such as murdering our scientists and waging cyberwar. We have submitted a
complaint with the United Nations over these unjustified accusations.
SPIEGEL: The US president has written a letter asking Iranian leaders to
extradite Gholam Shakuri, a Quds Force officer in Tehran and the individual
allegedly behind the attempt, to the US, along with another suspect living
Salehi: We have not received sufficient evidence from the US giving us
precise information about the true identity of this alleged suspect. Why is
he supposed to be in Iran? And where is he supposed to be there? There are
thousands of people in Iran named Shakuri. Besides, there is no extradition
agreement between Iran and the US. Such treaties exist only between nations
that are friends.
Interview conducted by Dieter Bednarz
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Received on Mon Nov 14 2011 - 19:04:10 EST