27 March 2005

Interview
with
H.E. Dr. M. Javad Zarif
Ambassador & Permanent Representative of
The Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations

CNN. Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer – 27 March 2005

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

PBLITZER: And joining us now, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.

Are you surprised to hear those relatively positive statements from U.S. military commanders about cooperation with Iran in the Persian Gulf?

JAVAD ZARIF, IRAN’S AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, not at all. Iran has been cooperative. When our national security is not threatened and when countries do not take a hostile position against our national security, Iran considers security and stability in our region as our primary concern and as our major objective.

And, therefore, we want to help in bringing back stability and security to our region. We want to avoid confrontation, and that has been the policy that we have pursued in Afghanistan, in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.

BLITZER: At the same time, Mr. Ambassador, you may have just heard General Abizaid on this program complain about Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs.

Are you allowing insurgents to cross over from Iran into neighboring Iraq?

ZARIF: Well, first of all, it would be rather ironic for a general who is in command of over 140,000 forces in a country to accuse another country of interference.

But we have a very long border with Iraq. Our policy is to help in the maintenance of stability and security in Iraq. It is a difficult border to watch at the same time.

But nevertheless, we have made it very clear that we want stability in Iraq. We are happy that the situation in Iraq is moving toward stability and hopefully will reach a point that the major source of instability in that region, which is the presence of foreign forces, will be removed and the Iraqi people will be able to determine their future freely.

One step in the right direction has been taken, in holding an election. And Iran was for that election from the very beginning, and we are very happy that that election has taken place. And hopefully that election will lead Iraq into having a more stable and secure society and, at the same time, a democratic and representative one.

BLITZER: The other serious complaint that U.S. officials are making against Iran — and we’ll get to the nuclear issue shortly — is Iranian interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs, specifically Iran’s support for Hezbollah and other groups in Lebanon. Let me read to you what one State Department official, David Satterfield, said the other day. He said, “There should be no attempt to play games with the stability in Lebanon. It is for the Lebanese people and not for any outside power, including Iran and Syria or any parties which they support, to interfere with the will of the Lebanese people.”

Will you step back and let the Lebanese people deal with their issues by themselves?

ZARIF: I believe that statement would apply and we would welcome that statement if the United States applied that statement to itself and to its allies.

We believe that the people of Lebanon have to determine their future and their destiny, and we believe that forces within Lebanon have a right to participate in that process.

BLITZER: Will you stop supporting terrorist groups in Lebanon and elsewhere?

ZARIF: We do not consider groups that have liberated their territory from foreign occupation as terrorist groups. It’s a matter of definition.

The point is that, as you have seen, various groups in Lebanon have shown the possibility of bringing people to the streets to participate in the political process. And you have seen the amount of support that certain groups enjoy, including Hezbollah, among the population of Lebanon.

By making accusations against various groups who have liberated their territory from Israel — and that is why they have such a popular base within Lebanon — that popular support will not wither away.

That is a fact of life, and the United States has to live with that.

BLITZER: On the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S. suspects, the Europeans suspect that you’re clandestinely trying to develop a nuclear bomb. They say Iran has plenty of oil; why do you need nuclear reactors?

You understand that the U.S. is leading an effort to impose U.N. sanctions on Iran if it doesn’t come clean.

Are you close to reaching some sort of agreement with the Europeans now that will allow full inspections in Iran?

ZARIF: Well, you made several points.

First of all, Iran has a lot of oil and gas reserves, but that does not mean that in a few decades we will not be dependent for our energy on foreign sources. And this is not what we want to see. And that is why Iranian nuclear program, once supported by the United States in the ’70s, is a policy to diversify sources of energy. And that is quite acceptable, and it is our right to do that.

Secondly, we have had good discussions with the Europeans. And the last discussion that we had in Paris last Wednesday was a step forward. And we hope that that discussion can bring about a movement forward toward a mutually agreed framework to proceed.

As far as inspections are concerned, Iran has been under the most intrusive inspections over the last two years. And that inspection, time and again, has produced only one result: that Iran has not diverted its nuclear program toward nonpeaceful means.

I think that’s a conclusion that will be shown time and again after this investigation continues. And I believe the United States has to live with it, that the allegations that it has made against Iran have simply been baseless.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, unfortunately we’re out of time. We have to leave it right there. We’ll continue this conversation down the road.

Javad Zarif, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations joining us.

Thank you very much.

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