Interview with U.K. Foreign Secretary and Foreign Minister of Iran Kamal Kharrazi

February 6, 2003

JACK STRAW: It has been my pleasure to welcome to London my very good friend Kamal Kharrazi, the Foreign Minister from Iran. This is Mr Kharrazi's second official visit as Foreign Minister to London. He was last here three years ago in January 2000 at the invitation of my colleague Robin Cook, and it is in response to the three visits that I have made to Tehran in the 21 months since I became Foreign Secretary in June of 2001.

We have discussed a wide range of issues and I think it is fair for both of us to say that over recent years co-operation and collaboration and understanding between our two governments and peoples from Iran and from the United Kingdom has very greatly improved and deepened and that is a matter of note for both of us, and there is a very good dialogue taking place now on both international and bilateral issues.

There has been a range of bilateral issues which we have discussed, a lot to do with how we improve co-operation, how we improve trade and we are both very committed indeed to improving levels of trade and investment with Iran. And earlier today Mr Kharrazi went to see the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. There was a very good discussion, and I will leave it to Mr Kharrazi to characterise it, about the issue overwhelmingly of Iraq.

I would just like to say in respect of Iraq, as all of you will know, after Cabinet the Prime Minister and I met the Chief Inspectors, Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei and we discussed with them the next stages in the inspection process with the visit by the inspectors to Baghdad this weekend and then the Security Council Meeting taking place in 8 days time on 14 February.

The issue before Iraq now, and the issue before the Security Council, is not one of more time for inspectors, of itself, nor more inspectors. It is about more - much, much more - co-operation from the Iraqi regime, and one of the things which stood out from the inspectors' reports to the Security Council on 27 January was the palpable failure by Iraq either to make a full, accurate and complete disclosure on 7 December, or from the day when Resolution 1441 was passed on 8 November, fully and actively to co-operate with the inspectors. It is Saddam Hussein and his regime which is in the dock. They were found guilty by the international community many years ago, and it is for them to prove that they no longer have weapons of mass destruction, something which they have plainly failed to do up to now. And, as I said yesterday in the Security Council, if this goes on, the Security Council will have to face up to its responsibilities.

KAMAL KHARRAZI: Thank you very much. This is my pleasure to visit the United Kingdom for the second time. We had very good discussions this morning with Prime Minister Blair, and with my colleague Jack Straw. We covered different issues on bilateral field as well as crises in the region. We are living in a very difficult time and naturally we have to do our best to resolve this crisis without the necessity of using force. I believe that the United Nations system, the Security Council, have the authority to take care of the Iraqi issue. It seems that it is imminent to have another Resolution as another means of using diplomatic channels to ask Iraq to comply more fully with the Resolutions of the Security Council.

We have of course our own concerns as neighbouring countries to Iraq because the outbreak of war would have its own repercussions on all neighbouring countries in that region, including Iran. The simplest one would be the influx of refugees to Iran. Anyway I am very glad that I had this opportunity to visit London and I had very good discussions with my colleague and the Prime Minister, and we decided to expand our co-operation in different fields, especially in the economic area.

QUESTION: What is going to happen if Hans Blix says to you on 14 February that he needs more time?

JACK STRAW: Well, I'm not going to pre-empt his report. This is a United Nations process under Resolution 1441. One of the reasons why we now face a very serious crisis is because of the reports of the inspectors on the 27 January. All of us hope and pray that even at this late stage Saddam Hussein gets the message that active co-operation as required by 1441 means exactly that. It means proactive co-operation, voluntary co-operation, it means co-operation not only to assist the inspectors to identify the physical evidence of weapons of mass destruction, but actually, even more important, assistance by the Iraqi regime to assist the inspectors to identify the intellectual evidence that is currently locked up by Saddam Hussein in the brains of the scientists who produced the weapons of mass destruction in the past. And one of the things that I know that the inspectors will be raising is the fact that Saddam Hussein has run a reign of terror with the scientists who have been working on these weapons programmes so that they have been threatened with death if they speak out and even worse their families have been threatened with death if they speak out and allow themselves freely to be interviewed.