Al Jazeera Interview with President Vladimir Putin (Excerpts)

February 10, 2007

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran

. . .

QUESTION: Now, turning to another big issue - Iran. Mr President, you are in regular contact with the Iranian leadership. Have you received any positive signals from Tehran on settling the Iranian nuclear issue?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We are indeed in contact with the Iranian leadership. Mr Ivanov, the secretary of the Russian Security Council was just in Tehran, and after my meeting with you, I have a meeting scheduled with an envoy of the Iranian leadership, who has brought me a message from Iran's religious leader, Mr Khamenei.

We know the position of our Iranian partners. We very much hope that they will also give consideration to our recommendations. There are no questions or doubts on the Iranian side as to the sincerity of our relations with Iran. All of our action seeks to settle the confrontation over the Iranian nuclear issue. We think that this would not take much. Iran must address the concerns of Mr El-Baradei and the organisation he heads, but we do not think that this need in any way infringe on Iran's plans and right to develop peaceful nuclear technology.

QUESTION: As you know, Mr El-Baradei recently proposed that Iran stop its uranium enrichment activities simultaneously with a lifting of sanctions against Tehran. Am I right in understanding that you support this initiative?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes, we support it. We think it is a carefully conceived and balanced initiative that does not harm Iran's interests.

QUESTION: In your contacts with the Iranians, have you received any positive signals about this initiative in particular?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We have received the signal that Iran would like to resolve this problem, but as to whether our Iranian partners are willing to respond positively to Mr El-Baradei's proposals, we have not heard anything constructive on this particular issue.

QUESTION: Russia's foreign minister, Mr Lavrov, said a few days ago that Washington had assured him that it did not have plans for military intervention in Iran. Could you say that this constitutes guarantees from the USA on this issue?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: This matter is one of the key issues on the international agenda, and not only with regard to Iran. This is a matter of security guarantees in the world in general and the modern architecture of international relations. Can the members of the international community feel that international law really does provide them with solid and reliable protection today? Or are we going to make unilateral decisions not based on international law part of the practice of international relations?

We very much hope that the assurances Mr Lavrov received from our American colleagues really do correspond to reality. We think, and I hope, that is indeed the case.

But at the same time, I think that people in Iran and throughout the entire world remember very well how events developed in Iraq, which you asked me about at the start of this interview. I would just like to remind you that we adopted a resolution on Iraq in the autumn of 2002, and the IAEA noted that Iraq was cooperating actively with the organisation and positively assessed Iraq's efforts to develop this cooperation. Despite this, military operations began in the spring of 2003. This is the first point that raises concern.

Second, the new initiative on Iraq that you mentioned provides for not only increasing the military contingent on Iraqi soil itself, but also for deploying aircraft carrying units in the region. Independent military experts say that this is not necessary for resolving the problem in Iraq.

Furthermore, a fairly large naval presence armed with missile technology is already deployed in the Persian Gulf and is not being used for operations in Iraq. All of this together does raise questions and gives us some cause for concern.

QUESTION: The West, the USA and Israel criticise Russia for its military and technical assistance to Iran, including in the field of nuclear energy. Do you plan to continue this cooperation despite the fuss it has caused?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We are always being criticised for something. I know of no country that has not at some point or another been criticised for its foreign policy, if it is able to pursue an active and independent foreign policy in keeping with its national interests. Our foreign policy is highly balanced. We pursue our national interests, but at the same time we comply strictly with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law in general.

In this respect, I would like to say that our nuclear energy and military-technical cooperation with Iran is not in contradiction with any international laws. We have not taken a single step that violates any of the international agreements relating to Iran. Our nuclear programme, the programme to build a nuclear power plant for electricity production at Bushehr is exclusively peaceful and is under the full control of IAEA inspectors. The inspectors have their verification equipment in place and are always present, and they have no claims to make against our programme at Bushehr.

We will continue to follow this same line in any future action. We are categorically opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It is not in our own national interests to even consider for a second allowing another country to acquire nuclear weapons. This would not contribute to strengthening world peace.

As for our military-technical cooperation, we cooperate in this area with many countries in the region and not just with Iran. We have been working with Iran for around 40 years now, but this cooperation is very limited. We have made very few arms supplies to Iran. Our last supply was the delivery of mid-range air defence systems with a radius of 30-50 km. This is a purely defensive weapons system and the supply of this kind of weapons system does not upset the balance of power in the region. Looking at arms supplies to the region as a whole, Russia supplies many times fewer arms to the Middle East than do a good number of other countries. I think that our actions are therefore fully justified. We act within the limits of international law, as I said. But as far as Iran goes, there is one other issue that I think we should not forget. We think that Iran should not be made to feel that it is surrounded by hostile forces. I think we must not push a country such as Iran and the Iranian people into a dead end, into some kind of trap. The Iranian people and leadership must realise that they do have friends in this world, that there are people ready to talk to them, and that there are people they can trust. We need to make them aware of this so as to create the atmosphere that will help us to resolve the most pressing problem we face with Iran - that of its nuclear problem.

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