In New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki sat down with NEWSWEEK's Lally Weymouth to discuss how he sees US-Iranian relations and Iran's growing power.
Newsweek: Do you believe there will be an Israeli or an American attack on your nuclear facilities?
Newsweek: If there were such an attack by Israel, would you regard it as an attack by the United States? In the Middle East, no one makes a distinction between the US and Israel. Reportedly, officials in your administration have talked about shutting down the Strait of Hormuz in the event of an attack.
Mottaki: A number of American and Israeli officials express military comments and take military positions. Naturally, they will get military responses.
Newsweek: President Bush sent one of the top US State Department officials, William Burns, to attend negotiations with Iran last July. That was a pretty big change?
Mottaki: We welcomed the participation by Mr. Burns in the Geneva talks. We feel that if this is the real approach taken by the U.S. right now vis -a-vis the nuclear issue, they must continue with such efforts.
Newsweek: So you 're happy with the US approach.
Mottaki: The American administration has taken the first realistic step.
Newsweek: Just in sending Burns or in what Burns said?
Mottaki: Previously, the U.S. administration attached certain provisos to their presence in the talks. [Burns's] presence in Geneva meant that those were no longer in play. An effort has started and if it is to succeed in resolving the nuclear issue, we have to take it to the next step.
Newsweek: But you are not going to abandon your nuclear program?
Mottaki: What we are doing is completely legal. For us to arrive at a mutual confidence, we need to negotiate.
Newsweek: But Iran is the only member of the United Nations that has talked about wiping another member off the face of the earth - Israel.
Mottaki: Pakistan has the bomb, India has the bomb, but they have not threatened to annihilate another country.
Newsweek: How do you gain confidence in a country if it says it intends to wipe another country off the face of the earth?
Mottaki: We do not officially recognize this regime. Going back to the nuclear issue, I will continue by saying that our activities are completely legal.
Newsweek: The International Atomic Energy Agency says that Iran has not reported a lot of what it has been asked for and that it is continuing its uranium enrichment.
Mottaki: We are continuing with enrichment, which we have every right to do.
Newsweek: What about the other charges in the IAEA report?
Mottaki: The resolutions of the U.N. Security Council [against Iran] are unlawful and illegal. Last year we responded to all the questions that were given to us by the agency. Later, it became quite clear that the questions were given to the agency by the Americans. After we were through with one set of questions, the Americans came back with new claims that they gave the agency to look into.
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