Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Manouchehr Mottaki Participates in CNN Panel Discussion on Iran (Excerpts)

February 1, 2009

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

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AMANPOUR: Mr. Foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki of Iran. The new U.S. administration of President Obama has basically already extended a hand and said that they want to try something new, dialogue, an engagement with Iran. Are you also ready to give this new administration a chance and to grab that extended hand?

MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful, I would like to thank the invitation provided to me by this panel. And I believe that the new president of the United States needs a little bit more time to define and introduce the ideals and the objectives.

We should not put him in the hard position we believe that the situation has been exhibited to the United States that the word "change" has been introduced, has been introduced.

Change is the result of the collection of the groups of the policies in the last decades in the United States, where the fundamentals of the policies for the United States. I believe that the United States of America should see why they need to change. I believe that these whys are the strategic issues.

And they're not tactical approaches. And they are not the -- just the changing of literature. The United States needs change because the world has been changed drastically. We are looking for a better world. Therefore, the framework of our topics instead of the expectations should be realities and hopes.

In the frameworks of realities and hopes, we should review what has happened before. And we should have this courage and we should have respect this courage that in the domestic policies of the United States, people they're suffering a little bit a kind of form of in confidence.

AMANPOUR: Are you going to be ready to engage if the United States is ready to engage?

MOTTAKI: Fully ready to take into consideration the issue range, and more important than that, the performance of the new approaches. We believe that this is a very important one.

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AMANPOUR: There's a deep disagreement around the world about how to deal with Iran's nuclear program. How is this going to go forward? Iran says it has the right to its nuclear program. The West wants it to stop. How is this going to go forward and what is your assessment on whether they are meeting their international obligations under, you know, the nuclear parameters and the inspection?

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, IAEA DIRECTOR-GENERAL: Christiane, the efforts, as I said, change the whole environment. So, we'll have a security system that does not depend on nuclear weapons. Then I come to the Middle East. The Middle East is a state -- a region which is absolutely unstable in terms of security. I mean you have on the one hand, all the countries in -- in the NPT, Israel is outside of the NPT not to have nuclear weapons. Now we have Iran with international concern that Iran is developing the technology, might be trying in the future to develop nuclear technology.

AMANPOUR: What do you think?

ELBARADEI: Well, there are two aspects to the Iranian issue, the technical issue and the political issue. The technical issue that Iran needs to work with the agency to establish all the questions we still have, vis-a-vis its past and present programs. They can for example as Minister Mottaki knows very well, they need to give us the access through that so-called additional protocol, access to information, access to location, so I will be able to provide credible assurance about the current and past nuclear program in Iran.

Then the political part, which is concern about Iran future intention. What the U.S. and the European are concerned about. It is not Iran today, it's Iran's future intention. That is primarily a political issue. A security issue will not be resolved except through direct dialogue, without precondition between the U.S. and Iran. And that's why I think what President Obama have said, that he is ready now to speak to Iraq without precondition, without -- on the basis of mutual respect is the way to go, it's long overdue. I mean, we spent six years trying to build confidence between the U.S., Europe and Iran and I'm sorry to say the policy has failed.

AMANPOUR: There is no confidence.

ELBARADEI: There is absolutely zero confidence. I don't think we've moved one iota on that. I can also tell you, again, based on where I am sitting, any time you try to isolate a country, the results get much worse. I look at North Korea. North Korea until 1994 there was a dialogue. Stop the dialogue after the Bush administration came to power, North Korea developed nuclear weapons.

Iran, the objective was Iran not to develop the technology, enrichment technology. There is now a dialogue, Iran now has mastered the technology. Hamas, the idea was to isolate Hamas and the net results that the we have the Gaza carnage. Whether you like or you dislike your enemy, you have to talk to them. That's the lesson I have -- I have to draw every time I deal with a crisis.

AMANPOUR: Well, as the only representative of the western countries dealing with the nuclear situation, you say what a burden. But do you agree with Mr. ElBaradei that it's a political solution first, it's not just a technical solution?

BERNARD KOUCHNER, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER: Absolutely. And we tried. As you said in the beginning, we tried. We tried to talk, then we extend to the Russian, to the Americans, and we tried and tried. And after our Iranian friends, as we used to say, we are not answering to Mohamed ElBaradei's question, questions. We were trying to get contact one after the other. Oh, the Germans and the Brits and the French and the Russian, et cetera.

And at the last meeting in Geneva, including the Americans were there to try to talk with Iran and desperately we were talking and talking without any result. So, let's technically as you said, get an answer or several answers on very precise questions. Then politically you're completely right. We have to open and with the new administration, the Americans, this is a new era, opening the door, as I say, is also opening the minds and the hearts. We must do it. Europe and people are completely ready to do so.

AMANPOUR: Are you -- sorry. I just want to ask Mr. --

ELBARADEI: I think we need to be practical and we need to deal with the two issues simultaneously. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two. Iran should come forward and answer the technical issues. The dialogue should start without preconditions. Both of them will feed each other.

AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Foreign Minister, are you willing as President Obama has said, to engage Iran without preconditions? Are you willing to come forward with a solution that will increase trust in the world, regarding your nuclear program, and are you willing, in this new environment, to meet Mr. ElBaradei's needs which is to answer the technical questions that are still outstanding?

MOTTAKI: Ms. Amanpour, I believe and let me say to the distinguished colleagues, I believe that you -- we have an important agenda. We are not here to provide diplomatic response and short response to the questions.

I believe that we need to somehow put aside different layers of the discussions and issues. It is not President Obama to talk to the world. I believe that Americans talk a lot to the world. They talk more than enough. And I believe that now Americans should listen. They should exercise to listen. They should try to listen to the others. Why did not the West respect the political decisions of Palestinians in Gaza?

Why there are always elections that even the EU representatives aren't there, they did not recognize the new government, the new publicly elected government of Hamas in Gaza. We believe that back up the stage there is an exclusion which has proved its experience. There is a kind of unilateralism which proved its failures to the world, a kind of unilateralism which in the -- in the arrangement of the world prove to be failed is still trying to prove itself.

Mr. Obama should distinguish and introduce its differences with -- its policies with President Bush and which aspect he has differences with President Bush. We should know the approaches of President Obama. And we should know the differences between two gentlemen's approaches.

AMANPOUR: It's a very impassioned look back. But what I want to do is look forward.

KOUCHNER: Yes, but don't confuse anything and everything, it is impossible. We were talking with technical problems. We are absolutely open to the nuclear civil powers, and we try to help you. We offered you, not only friends, but Europe in people and all the people. This is one thing.

But we are certainly frightened by the perspective of the use of military nuclear power. That's why we're a bit anxious and we ask you and very politely to answer to the agency's question.

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