Interview with Deputy Ministry of Foreign Affairs Georgy Mamdov on Iran's Nuclear Program

June 6, 2003

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Unofficial translation from Russian

Yesterday US Under Secretary of State John Bolton accused Moscow of "conniving at WMD technology supplies to Iran." Katerina Labetskaya, Vremya Novostei special correspondent, asked Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Georgy Mamedov to explain the surprise demarche of the American diplomat.

Answer: Our nuclear cooperation with Iran is limited to building the Bushehr NPP. And all we are doing within the framework of this cooperation is absolutely in all details in compliance with the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and does not give rise to any questions on the part of this treaty's supervisory body - the IAEA.

This agency has carried out more than a hundred inspections at Bushehr NPP, which is comparable with what occurred in Iraq, and there are no questions to us or the Iranians. There is no doubt that this might not be a cover for a "closed nuclear program." The inspections have been occurring regularly, therefore the data are the freshest.

Question: How do matters stand with fuel for the Bushehr NPP?

Answer: We have a commitment to supply fuel. But the Iranians and we have an understanding that this fuel will be supplied when our bilateral protocol is signed. It has been the word "protocol" that might have mixed things up, for there are two protocols. About the second one I shall say below. Now the talk is about the protocol which we are to sign with Iran.

Question: When will you sign it?

Answer: As soon as it is ready. Now our Minatom and the Atomic Agency of Iran are engaged in elaborating this protocol exactly. Its meaning is that spent fuel will have to be returned to Russia, thus ruling out the very possibility of its being processed and used for nonpeaceful purposes. With this ends all that is associated with our cooperation with Iran in the nuclear field. Some dislike it, John Bolton among them. We consider that, as our President said, Iran is our neighbor and so we will cooperate with it. The US stand, however, on Iran generally, not only on a nuclear program, differs from ours. You will recall that the leadership of the US administration was calling for the isolation of Iran.

Question: What do you think about "Iran's possible nuclear program"?

Answer: There are no evidences of the existence of that program, we believe. I stress the IAEA so far has identified no violations by Iran of the NPT.

But certain strictly technical questions exist. We aren't discussing them at the Americans' bidding but because this worries us ourselves. For this is taking place near our borders, and we are interested in the Treaty being strictly complied with.

Since there are questions some people, like Bolton, claim Iran is violating NPT, that it needs to be isolated and so on and so forth. So this calls for some additional measures to clarify the situation. On June 16, the IAEA's Board of Governors will be convened. It is being convened regularly, this won't be an "emergency get-together." But this question will also be raised there. For a couple of months now, based on inspections and the information coming in from various countries, including the US, the IAEA has been preparing a report in which the conclusion will be drawn whether Iran has been abiding by all its NPT obligations. It's hard to guess what that conclusion is going to be: maybe vague, maybe clear.

We trust the IAEA and will heed its conclusions. The Agency, and Director General ElBaradei personally have acquitted themselves well and as an independent player, including on the Iraq issue.

Question: What is the essence of the second protocol - with the IAEA?

Answer: It has so far been signed with only 30 countries. Its meaning is that IAEA inspections can apply not only to declared nuclear facilities, but also to any facility at which, according to its information, nuclear materials may be contained. Even if that facility is not declared by the country. This is, as it were, additional transparency. In the conditions when a propaganda campaign is being conducted, when political pressure is being exerted, when totally unwarranted sanctions are being imposed, including against our enterprises, it is best for all, and for Iran too, to sign the protocol, thus demonstrating openness and goodwill. In the Declaration on Nonproliferation passed on Wednesday by the summit in Evian, it is stated that the G8 calls upon Iran without delays and conditions to sign the additional protocol. This is fully in accord with our position as well.

Question: Georgy Enverovich, the Bolton "raid" came as a surprise to you?

Answer: Since Bolton and I as professionals have all the time been holding negotiations on these questions I would not like to publicly take issue with him.

Mr. Bolton is quite often coming to Moscow. All meet with him with whom he wants to meet, including senior officials from Minatom, the Russian Munitions Agency and other agencies.

He can get an expert answer to any of his concerns. Therefore we feel that for him to make such statements without having any evidence and, most importantly, without asking us any questions in this connection was not very responsible. Especially as we met in Evian only two days ago. We were working, were expertly preparing materials for the leadership in connection with the Declaration on Nonproliferation.

It was in Evian that the spirit of cooperation prevailed. First of all, thanks to, among other things, the accords reached between presidents of Russia and the Us in St. Petersburg.

Question: Whence this wind of change then?

Answer: Honestly speaking, we are bewildered. One may only guess what this was needed for. Maybe it's part of some overall political pressure. I told you, didn't I, that ours are different courses precisely on Iran, not on possible nuclear programs. The Americans are for the isolation of Iran, and we for cooperation with it, of course, one that is done in accordance with international agreements. It is not quite understandable why after such serious accords in St. Petersburg and Evian that so groundless statement was needed. Therefore we are expressing concern.

If, however, there are some serious questions, not in terms of propaganda, but in order to ascertain the truth, then okay, we have expert channels in which Mr. Bolton himself is regularly participating.

Question: What is required to resolve this "odd situation"?

Answer: Nothing is required, because there is no "odd situation" at all. The only oddity is that this is being covered in the press. Actually both the Americans and we and the Iranians are perfectly aware what it is all about.