CNN Interview with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov

November 19, 2003

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iraq

Unofficial translation from Russian

Question: What full-blooded UN role do you see in settling the Iraq problem?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: To solve the Iraq problem successfully we think that, first, the trust of the Iraqi people is necessary, and secondly, the active participation of the international community and the legitimacy of the measures it is taking in Iraq's interests.

As we see it, what is occurring today, including the measures for a partial transfer of powers to the Iraqi representatives, does not entirely fit the criteria I've referred to. If there's no trust of the Iraqi people, it's hard to expect that the interim bodies of power that have been set up will be seen by the Iraqi people as legitimate. That's why an active UN involvement is needed.

We are talking about this not in the abstract, but proceeding from the practice which we had, for example, in the case of Afghanistan. We held in Bonn a UN international conference on Afghanistan. Now we suggest holding a UN conference on Iraq, to be attended by representatives of the various sections of Iraqi society and of political circles, who together with UN representatives and, say, those of neighboring states could draw up a settlement plan which would then be considered by the UN Security Council. Then this plan could be presented to the Iraqi people. In this case it will not be a plan of one or two countries but of the international community, endorsed by the UN. Then, we believe, the interim executive body of Iraq together with UN representatives could start a constitutional period, the preparation of a constitution, a population census, and the preparation of other necessary conditions for elections.

We consider necessary the presence, for a certain period, of an international security force in Iraq, whose mission should be clearly defined by the UN Security Council.

I outlined the role the UN should and can play in the interest of Iraqi settlement. Does this run counter to the interests of the US or Iraq? I am certain, not. We are all interested in Iraqi settlement, in there being no further casualties in this most complicated situation and in preventing Iraq from becoming a seat of international terrorism. Here we aren't rivals, but partners. But for our steps to be effective we must be engaged in a dialogue. The most preferable place for that dialogue would be the United Nations Security Council. We feel that the UN role is completely obvious, and more than that, in this situation indispensable.

Question: Don't you think that it will hard for UN members to return to Iraq after the policy being pursued by the US?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: It will be hard if that's a return just so right now; but if it's a return in the context of the steps I've referred to - after an international conference and the approval by UN Security Council of a settlement plan and a mandate for an international security force - the UN return will be logical. In this case it will be regarded by the Iraqi people not as a decision by one country, but as a decision of the UN. I am certain that such an operation will enjoy trust on the part of the local population.

Question: When can this take place?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: It is hard for me to talk about a timeframe, because events are now developing according to a different scenario. The plan which has been proposed by our US partners in the last few days does not even determine a UN role. But I'm certain that we shall reach the point all the same where the UN will play the leading role in Iraqi settlement. The sooner this occurs, the faster the settlement process, the fewer casualties will be there.

Question: But the Americans too do not deny a UN role in the process of Iraqi settlement?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: Today the US representative actually can - on many questions - veto the decisions of the Interim Governing Council of Iraq. It is obvious that the US representative to a significant extent determines IGC decisions. In such circumstances the UN cannot play the role designed for it. The UN should play an independent and determining role. Reference to a determining role does not imply that the UN should dictate terms; it should perform the mission which will be prescribed for it by the UN Security Council. The key role in solving the Iraq problem must be played by Iraqi institutions which will be established under the auspices of the UN and which it cannot substitute. The UN can only lend them assistance and impart to them legitimacy. Herein lies the exceptional role of the Organization.

Question: Will Russia participate in the process of Iraqi settlement?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: We have always stressed that Russia is ready to participate in the process of Iraqi settlement. If we don't right now, just as many other countries, it's only because the process currently evolving does not correspond to the principles I have referred to. If these principles are taken into account then, of course, Russia will participate. We do have strategic interests there. We are watching with concern Iraq fall into an ever more uncontrolled situation, the country become a focus of concentration of various terrorist organizations. And with each passing day this problem will be harder to solve. The sooner we unite our efforts, the more quickly we shall attain the common aim.

Question: Iran has fulfilled the requirements put forward by the US. But the US is displeased all the same. Secretary of State Colin Powell said today Iraq is still intent on producing nuclear weapons. How do you look at the situation?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: First of all I know of not a single country in the world that would advocate that Iran should possess nuclear weapons. We were all against nuclear weapons appearing in Iran and for its nuclear programs bearing an exclusively peaceful nature. This was from the outset our position, to which we have adhered.

IAEA adopted a resolution embodying three provisions. First, that Iran should provide full information on all the previous and current nuclear programs being implemented in the country. Second, that Iran sign the Additional IAEA Safeguards Protocol. Third, that Iraq suspend uranium enrichment.

Russia together with other countries actively worked with the Iranian leadership to get the fulfillment of all these provisions. We note with satisfaction that Iran gave consent to fulfill them. It has already furnished the IAEA with information on the previous and current nuclear programs, which is now being studied by IAEA inspectors. We shall wait for their assessments. Iran has notified the IAEA in writing that it accedes to the Additional Safeguards Protocol. In Moscow the representative of the Iranian leadership declared that Iran is suspending uranium enrichment. Therefore we consider that all the conditions, set forth not by Russia or the US or France, but by the IAEA, have been met.

Now our task is to see that this Iranian stand becomes consolidated. If something in Iran's position does not satisfy somebody, it is important to understand what exactly. It seems to me that there should be no artificial whipping up of tensions; it is important to ensure that Iran keeps its pledges. This requires strict control, to be exercised by the IAEA. We shall be guided by the conclusions and analyses which will come from the IAEA representatives.

Question: Why then is the US still expressing its displeasure?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: It's hard for me to say. I think the decisions which the Iranian leadership took came as a bit of a surprise for Washington. It is not easy for the US to readjust the line it has been pursuing for the last few years.

Question: So Iran has done too much in this field?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: Anyway, for some people it came as a surprise.

Question: How do you see the idea of imposing sanctions against Iran?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: I now see no grounds to impose sanctions against Iran. On the contrary, if it fulfills all the obligations it has assumed to the IAEA, the world community in accordance with international agreements is duty bound to render Iran assistance in developing nuclear programs for peaceful purposes. This is an obligation of the international community. Russia will continue to cooperate with Iran, including in the nuclear field.

Question: What fears does the situation in Georgia arouse in you?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: We are worried by the current situation in Georgia, especially by the fact that it has got out of control. Of course, the parliamentary elections deserve serious criticism. The international observers who were in Georgia have so indicated. At the same time we are calling upon Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and all the political forces of the country not to succumb to emotions, but jointly to take a decision and correct the mistakes made in the course of the elections and keep the process within the Constitution.

This meets the interests not only of Georgia, but of Russia as well. Georgia is our neighbor. We have a not simple situation on the border with Georgia. Therefore, the more stable the situation in Georgia, the more possibilities there are to ensure the security of our border. Based on this, Russia is keenly interested in Georgia getting out of the crisis by constitutional means. For our part we shall be assisting this.

Question: How does Russia intend to assist?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: It is no secret that the situation is so heated up that many politicians fear that there might be clashes and violence. Therefore Adzharia's President, Aslan Abashidze, who has backed up Georgian President Shevardnadze, visited the neighboring states - Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan - to enlist support in favor of the solution of all the problems by constitutional means.

Many problems have been accumulating in Georgia that may lead to an aggravation of the situation; they are linked to organized crime and the penetration of terrorists. We were talking about this previously too. Unfortunately, our voice was not heeded. Despite all the disagreements that we had with the leadership of Georgia, we stand in favor of all the problems being tackled within a legal field. First and foremost, stability in Georgia is important for us.