In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
President Bush sent a message to Iranian leaders this week: Don't meddle in the internal affairs of Iraq, especially in these final weeks before the election scheduled for the end of January.
Meanwhile, the United States government continues to express deep concern over Iran's nuclear program.
Joining us now from New York, Iran's permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Javad Zarif. Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to "Late Edition." Thanks very much for joining us.
JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO THE U.N.: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: I interviewed the interim president of Iraq, the other day. And listen to what he said about Iran's attitude toward his country, Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GHAZI AL-YAWER, INTERIM IRAQI PRESIDENT: I am very concerned. There is a lot of Iranian interference in Iraqi business. It's -- beyond any doubt -- it's very clear to everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And a day or two later, the Iraqi interim defense minister said, "I want to warn that Iran is the most dangerous enemy to Iraq and to all Arabs. Iran is the big link in terrorism in Iraq."
I wonder if you want to respond to these allegations that your government is interfering, meddling in Iraq affairs.
ZARIF: Well, I certainly have great respect for the president of the Iraqi interim government. So I will not address his remarks.
But let me make a few general comments. I believe we're moving towards -- the international community moving towards, and most importantly, the Iraqi people are moving toward an important date, that is the date of the election.
The first time in a very long history that Iraqis may have the opportunity to determine and determine their future.
Now, there are a lot of anxieties that are involved, and we understand those anxieties. In Iraq there has been a minority rule for many, decades and perhaps centuries. and that is why there may be some anxieties, here and there, about the outcome of the elections. And some people are trying to, perhaps, question the results of the elections before they take place.
What is important, Iran has been the victim of eight years of aggression imposed by Saddam's regime on Iraq. Iran wants stability in Iraq, nothing more than a Democratic representative government in Iraq, which represents all of the Iraqi people, various groups, various ethnicities, various religious backgrounds. Nothing other than that can ensure and guarantee for Iran that there won't be another aggression rage by an repressive regime against it in the future. So we want Democracy.
BLITZER: All right, Mr. Ambassador -- let me interrupt for a second, Mr. Ambassador, with respect. Are Iranians flooding into the southern part of Iraq, right now, with the hope in trying to interfere, influence or affect the Iraqi elections?
ZARIF: No. There a lot of Iranians -- there used to be a lot of Iranians who went to Iraq for pilgrimage. It is an important --all- important holy sites in Iraq. And a lot of Iranians are interested in visiting them.
But there are regulations. The Iraqi government -- the Iraqi ambassador, actually in Tehran, has already stated that allegations are misrepresentations and don't have any foundations. We have asked...
BLITZER: Can you state categorically, Mr. Ambassador, that you oppose this violent insurgency, the terrorism? We see some 64 people were killed, only today, including in Karbala and Najaf car bombings. Does Iran have anything at all to do with this insurgency? ZARIF: We condemn in the strongest terms these acts of terrorism and inhumanity. Iran was, in fact, a victim of one of those acts. when many of our pilgrims were murdered by one of those bombings in Karbala.
In fact, Iran has had a lot of its diplomats who have been kidnapped. One of our diplomats was murdered by the terrorists. What is important, at the same time, why we have to condemn terrorism and why we should not provide any possibility for the terrorists to veto and that is the aim of the terrorists.
They want to postpone and in fact veto the elections, in order to prevent Democracy coming to Iraq, through violence. And we need to prevent it.
At the same time, it is absolutely essential that we should fight terrorism by preventing the terrorists, depriving them of their breeding ground. We should not and cannot fight terrorism by providing terrorists with even further possibilities for recruitment through indiscriminate killing of innocent Iraqis.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about deep concerns still here in Washington over Iran's nuclear program. The other day, Secretary Of State Colin Powell gave this interview to the Associated Press. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have reason to believe that they have not abandoned the desire to abandon a nuclear weapon. And if you have that desire, then you may well be hiding things. I think it is wise, in this case, to be somewhat suspicious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Has Iran, like Libya, completely abandoned any hope of developing a nuclear bomb?
ZARIF: Iran never had any plans for a nuclear bomb. At the same time, Iran has a sophisticated nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and we are determined to continue that.
Now, there is a degree of international concern. Some of it is fabricated. Some of it is overblown because of the statements that are coming out of Washington and elsewhere; but some very legitimate international concerns. Because of the degree of sophistication of Iranian technology, that concern has to be alleviated. And that is why we have started a very serious and difficult process of confidence- building with our European friends and with the international community through the IAEA.
Let me tell you one important thing. Iran has been the subject of the most intrusive inspection regime in the entire international community for the past 14 months. Time and again, the assessment is repeated by the IAEA that there is no indication, no evidence of any Iranian military nuclear program. Our program is entirely civilian, has always been and will always remain entirely peaceful.
BLITZER: Here's what many observers ask. This question: Iran is one of the world's leading exporters of oil. Why do you need to develop nuclear energy if you have so much oil in your country?
ZARIF: Well, first of all, it is our right. And you don't need a reason to exercise our right.
Secondly, Iran's natural oil and gas reserves are finite. They will be depleted within a few decades. Iran will need to develop other means of energy. We are very actively pursuing hydroelectric power. We are at the same time, pursuing all other sources of energy because it will be irresponsible for a government to simply rely on a finite resource and then leave the future generations with nothing to have and no energy for the daily consumption.
Iran's consumption of energy is very high. And with the way our consumption and our rate of development is proceeding, we will be a net importer of oil and gas in a few years. What is important is for Iran to be able to have access to the technology and for the international community to be able to be confident that this access will not be diverted to military use. And we are very ready to prepare and prepared to provide that assurance.
BLITZER: Javad Zarif is Iran's permanent representative to the United Nations.
Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.
ZARIF: It was good to be with you, and have a good holiday season.
BLITZER: Thank you. You too.