French President Jacques Chirac's Interview with Le Monde on Iran's Regional Role (Excerpts)

July 26, 2006

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran
  • Syria

[Translated from the French]

. . .

Q: Should and could Syria have an influence on this situation in Lebanon?

A: I would be tempted first of all to talk about Iran, whose position is even more important than that of Syria. There is the nuclear issue, and then there is Iran in that region, and I do not believe we should mix up these two issues. Negotiations are underway with Iran. It is regrettable that Iran has not responded earlier. I believe that Iran must comply with international rules, and from this point of view, the country must understand that an agreement that complies with the rules of the international community, in other words non-proliferation, is in everyone's interest, and in Iran's interest. We must not forget that substantial proposals have been made to Iran. They include full co-operation concerning electronuclear issues, economic co-operation and dialogue concerning security issues in the region.

I would add that these proposals were not from the "Three" to Iran. The United States, Russia and China were associated. The entire international community was therefore involved. We indicated that if no agreement was reached, we would have to go to the Security Council and envisage more restrictive options, including sanctions. But we are not at that stage.

We were a little disappointed at Iran's failure to respond promptly. There may be some domestic policy issues that have led to this delay, I do not know, I cannot pass judgement on that point. I sincerely hope that Iran will provide a positive response to the overtures that have been made, because that means in a way that, in one way or another, - and we are no longer talking about the nuclear issue but about the region, we recognise that Iran has a legitimate right to defend its position in the region. Iran is an ancient civilisation, a major country. Its desire to have weight in the region is legitimate. We cannot pretend it does not exist. We need to be able to re-establish normal relations with Iran.

Indeed, Iran has its share of responsibility in the current conflict. Our information shows that sophisticated weapons and funding are being sent by Iran, probably via Syria, to Hizbullah. This is a problem.

But we can discuss it with Iran. I would like to remind you that when the elections took place in Lebanon, there was a period when we wondered what Hizbullah's reaction to these elections would be. Would they contest the results? At that time, we had contacts with Iran. And I have to note that Iran was quite co-operative.

Q: Do you think that the trigger for the crisis, on July 12th, bears Iran's signature?

A: I do not want to accuse anyone. I feel that neither Hamas nor Hizbullah took these irresponsible initiatives simply of their own accord. That is my impression.

. . .

Q: What is Teheran's responsibility?

A: The situation in Lebanon and the nuclear question are two separate dossiers and should be treated as such. The question of the Middle East is totally different. Iran has a number of concerns. Iran wants to assert itself as a power - hence its desire to master nuclear technologies, this being a related issue - to assert itself as a power that exists, that has weight in the region.

This leads to two consequences. Firstly, Iran wants to establish normal relations with the rest of the world, in particular with the United States. Secondly, it wants to be able to give its opinion on regional questions, since it is an important regional power.

It is logical to dialogue with Iran. We will then draw the necessary conclusions. We cannot make concessions on the nuclear issue. This is why I have said that it is a separate issue that will be dealt with if necessary by the Security Council. For the rest, everything depends on Iran's attitude. I reminded you of Iran's co-operative attitude during the Lebanese elections. At that time, we saw the influence that Iran can have over Hizbullah and its willingness to listen to advice on moderation. Perhaps those ideas are out of date now, but diplomacy is also founded on memory.