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QUESTION: Mr. President, on Iran. Many people say that you are surrendering Iran, despite the fact that you have large contracts, that you will go with the United States in regard to pressure on Khatami, on Iran, over nuclear actions.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: I met President Khatami today, we had a fairly long talk. I think it would be correct if such a respected company as Al-Jazeera approached him and asked: "Do you feel any pressure from Russia or not?"; he will tell you himself.
As regards our position, of course, I can answer you in this regard. The position is as follows. We consider, I personally consider, that the problem of a possible spread of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century is a key one. This is one of the main problems of our time. We are parties to the nonproliferation treaty and strictly adhere to all the rules of this treaty. Iran also signed this treaty. And we presume that Iran has no intention to have nuclear weapons. The President of Iran had told me repeatedly about this and today he once again reiterated it. If this is so, then we see no difficulties, no obstacles to Iran's signing an additional IAEA protocol, nor do we perceive any difficulties in the disclosure of all the nuclear programs of that country. If there is no aim to develop and produce nuclear weapons, then why not disclose all this? What's the problem? That needs to be done - this is the first point.
Secondly, in order to relieve the concerns of all those who have them about a possible existence in Iran of nuclear combat programs. We have suggested to our Iranian partners that we sign an appropriate document by which Russian fuel spent at the nuclear power plants would subsequently be returned to Russia so no one has any doubts that it can't be irradiated and that combat nuclear material can't be obtained from it. I so understand that our partners, and the Iranian too, have no problems on this question; they are ready to do so.
If this is all so, if it all proceeds thus, I see no grounds to limit Iran in obtaining the latest, state-of-the-art technologies for use, including nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Iran is not a state which is for some reason affected in rights, we see no grounds for that. And if all this, I repeat, is done, if the IAEA joins fully in the work to verify the relevant programs of Iran, we will continue to cooperate with Iran, including in this sensitive sphere under the control of the IAEA.
As to the positions of certain of our partners, I understand their concern. We ourselves, I repeat it once again, are against any spread of nuclear weapons, against any, and will help in every way to ensure that the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons is abided by all, we will do everything to this end. But the approach should be the same towards all. It should not be selective. There can be no provision by which some countries or representatives of some countries, the firms of some countries may cooperate with Iran and some countries may not. Restrictions and sanctions are being imposed on Russian firms every now and then. But for some reason I have never heard of those sanctions being imposed either on West European or on American firms. And we do have the information showing that these firms are cooperating with Iran, including in the nuclear field and this information is known to our partners in Western Europe and in the United States.
I would suggest that we should work out uniform approaches, raise the degree of trust in each other and cease playing the fool, cease using the topic of proliferation in order to introduce unfair competition in the practice of economic life.
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