President Vladimir Putin:
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am very glad to have the opportunity to meet with representatives from leading media of the United States. And I thank you for the opportunity to let your viewers and readers know what is happening in Russia. I am sure that this will be a positive contribution to the development of intergovernmental ties. I am at your disposal. I think it will be correct if we concentrate our attention on questions and answers. Please begin.
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Jill Dorothy (CNN): Another question about Iran. The Russian government says that all nuclear energy deals made between Iran and Russia are in keeping with legislation and international agreements. At the same time, we have heard charges from the U.S. that there are allegedly cases of concealed assistance conducted by Russian companies to help Iran develop nuclear weapons. People say that individual scientists are also involved in this activity. I would like to know if there is any Russian secret service information which could confirm these charges. And there is also another charge in this matter - that Iran allegedly supports terrorists. I would like to know your opinion on this matter.
Vladimir Putin: As for information from the Russian secret service - this is of course an interesting question (Laughter). But I will try to answer it carefully. And this answer may be unexpected for you. But I will start from the beginning.
As for the charges from our partners, including, and indeed primarily from our American partners that Russia is allegedly helping Iran create nuclear weapons. I have actually yet to hear these charges made against us. The issue is cooperation in the nuclear sphere, and from this comes the idea that this cooperation helps Iran in some way to get closer to creating its own nuclear weapons.
Sometimes we hear that certain scientists, specialists of Russian or even of Soviet origin may be involved directly in developing nuclear weapons.
First of all I would like to outline Russia's official position on problems of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
We are not merely signatories and participants of the Non-proliferation Treaty. We are the most active supporters of consistent fulfilment of these agreements. And especially as the appearance of another nuclear power on our southern borders does not at all correspond to our national interests.
I'm not even talking about other extremely serious consequences for the region and for the entire world if Iran becomes a nuclear power. We completely and utterly acknowledge this danger. And in this area, we are prepared to cooperate with all members of the international community involved in this area, and above all with the United States. The U.S., I believe, is one of our main partners. One could say it is a strategic partner on the problem of non-proliferation.
As for work in the area of nuclear power for peaceful goals, indeed we do have a series of programmes in this sphere, including with Iran, where we are building an atomic energy station bloc with a power of 1,000 megawatts.
And of course, we are carefully making sure that this cooperation in no way influences the ability of any power - including Iran - to create its own nuclear weapons.
As you know, this is a very sensitive issue. And here cooperation is very important. We need to listen to each other all the time. We need to reach a certain level of trust. We need, if you will excuse me, to stop talking idly about this matter, and speak in figures, facts and concrete details - because this is a real threat. Then this work will give real results. If we simply continue to stupidly politicize this problem, we will only worsen the situation.
A specific example on this problem is the following. We considered that the arguments of our partners were correct that nuclear fuel, which will in future be delivered to Iran, may be used as a basis to gain weaponry materials. And we are currently working with our Iranian colleagues on agreeing on an additional protocol to the existing agreements, according to which all the nuclear fuel which will be delivered to Iran in future will be returned in full to Russia after being processed at atomic energy stations.
It is very important for all members of the international community to influence Iran, above all International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) members, so that Tehran agrees to sign additional protocols to the Non-proliferation agreement.
I think that at the moment this issue has key significance. If Iran really does not intend to create nuclear weapons, then it has no need to hide anything from IAEA. And I see no grounds for it not to sign these additional protocols.
In a telephone conversation, President Khatami told me quite directly than Iran is ready to sign these documents.
As you know, recently a IAEA meeting was held on this issue, and the position of this organization was set forth. We expect that this process will be completed, and Iran will join the protocols.
Now for the information from the Russian secret service. According to our information, many western European and American companies cooperate with Iran - either directly or through intermediary organizations - in the nuclear sphere.
This is serious information, and we do not believe that we should have a complete monopoly over it. Furthermore, we are prepared to cooperate with our partners, and we hope that this will lead to definitive results, and remove all the concerns over the presence of a nuclear weapons programme in Iran. But as for cooperation in peaceful atomic energy, Iran is in fact a member of the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Agreement. And everything that takes place in this sphere is fully coordinated and fully corresponds to international law, from Russia's side. We would very much hope that the unfounded suspicions about alleged cooperation between Russia and Iran in the weaponry sphere are not used as a pretext for unfair competition on the international market as whole, and in Iran in particular.
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