On Sunday, London's Financial Times published the translation of an extensive interview with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.  --  Larijani said:  "The West made a historical mistake in 1953 when it stood against the nationalization of oil -- at that time the West stood against the national will.  They should consider this historical experience.  If they think any government in Iran could give up nuclear technology, they are mistaken."  --  In response to the question "Are you saying the West needs Iran more than Iran needs the West?" he said:  "Iran's geopolitical position is outstanding.  We are a historical civilization, not a small country.  We are influential across the region. We have good human resources.  All these factors can create a win-win situation, and this applies to our relations with the West.  --  Shi'ism is a religion of logic.  Westerners should stop following the advice of orientalists, who are mainly Zionists.  Iran is not like al-Qaeda.  To make such a comparison is seriously misleading.  I have studied Western philosophy but people in the West can be ignorant about Islam -- look at Mr. Bush's comments about launching a crusade.   Such behavior can only develop terrorism in the region." ...

By Roula Khalaf and Gareth Smyth; translation by Najmeh Bozorgmehr

Financial Times (UK)
January 22, 2006 -- 19:44 UT

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/976d081c-8b7e-11da-91a1-0000779e2340.html (subscribers only)

Iran recently announced its intention to resume research work at its Natanz nuclear facility, prompting the European Union to break off talks over Iran's atomic program. The EU and U.S. now say they want the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to use its February board meeting to send Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council for possible punitive action. The following is a transcript of an interview with Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, in Farsi, at the SNSC offices in Tehran on January 22, 2006

Financial Times: Has the actual nuclear research work at Natanz started? Are the centrifuges [devices used to enrich uranium] working?

Ali Larijani: Work at Natanz, meaning industrial production for industrial fuel, has not started. What we are doing now is on a small scale for research. We announced we would resume research, and left the possibility of resuming industrial-scale enrichment for discussion with the Europeans. They had some concerns and wanted to make sure about non-diversion [from civilian to military use]. During talks we can reach a formula for reaching industrial production under the IAEA [supervision] and can reassure [the Europeans] that it cannot be diverted. We still believe such controversial issues can be resolved within the context of negotiations.

FT: Has the pilot project, the research, in Natanz actually started?

AL: The grounds to start it have been prepared. It takes time.

FT: Will industrial production start any time soon?

AL: Everything depends on the way we are treated. If the negotiating route is open, we prefer to reach a conclusion through talks. But if this route is closed, we are obliged to follow up our other scenario.

FT: Are you talking about resolving the issue through the EU3 [Britain, France and Germany, who have led the EU in talks with Iran since 2003]?

AL: Yes.

FT: Is Iran ready -- under the so-called 'Russian proposal' -- to enrich uranium only in Russia? And is there also a Chinese proposal?

AL: The Russian proposal has been given to us, and it is one we can study. This proposal, however, has to be completed. There are some points which should be reconsidered in a more comprehensive plan. Generally speaking, we welcome any idea which can help resolve this problem. If the Chinese have any idea, we can consider that as well. But we have not received anything from them.

FT: Did you go to Moscow last week?

AL: No, this is also a journalistic mistake. We've had one round of talks with Russia in Tehran and the second round of talks will be in February in Moscow. We have to see what potential this idea has for being productive. There are two issues to be considered. One is Iran's right to enrichment, and the other is non-diversion. Any solution should be consistent with these considerations. The scale, extent, and timing can all be discussed.

FT: You mention timescale? Does this mean Iran's suspension of enrichment could possibly be extended?

AL: We have to look at the whole package.

FT: So there could be a timescale on industrial enrichment?

AL: Yes. We have a plan for resumption.

FT: You mean if there are no negotiations?

AL: Our preference is for talks.

FT: Is there also a timetable for research?

AL: There has not been much progress on this issue. There has been suspension of research for two and a half years. Then after two and a half years, the Europeans came up with a proposal that covered everything apart from nuclear fuel production. At this point, we distrusted them.

FT: Can we turn to the question of the Security Council? The Europeans say they have enough votes to refer or report Iran [from the IAEA]. But do you expect Russia and China will abstain?

AL: Within the IAEA [board] there are no vetoes, there are just votes. In the governing board decisions are based on consensus. There is no consensus over referral to the Security Council. The way Europe is dealing with Iran shows the lack of international consensus. In principle, making the IAEA's professional activities politically motivated is against international peace and security. Putting the IAEA under pressure for the governing board to support referral puts the integrity of the world's professional nuclear body under question. If Mr [Mohamed] ElBaradei [IAEA chief] says he will make a report in March, he should be given the chance. Why put him under pressure?

FT: What did you discuss with Mr ElBaradei during your recent meeting in Vienna?

AL: We have frequent talks with Mr ElBaradei, and there are inspectors in Iran.

FT: But what did you discuss in Vienna? Were you reassured as to his professionalism?

AL: We have differences of opinion. The important point is that we help Mr ElBaradei, including in doing his job here in Iran.

FT: The IAEA says it is not getting sufficient access, either to sites or documents.

AL: All the documents we have, we have given to the IAEA. There are no documents they've asked to see that we won't show them. They see all our atomic sites, indeed they inspect them and have cameras there. They have also some requests to visit military sites. In principle, we cannot open such doors to everyone. We have opened maybe over 20 military sites so far to inspection, including Shaheed Kazemi, Koladuz, and Parchin. But there should be a limit to this. Such issues can't be raised daily. Nonetheless, we are determined to have close relations with the IAEA.

FT: But there is a document you showed them they want to study, a document referred to in the letter from the members of the Security Council?

AL: The SC members have not asked us. The document they say they want to see is one and a half pages.

FT: So why not give it them?

AL: It's not important. We know they want the document for propaganda purposes. If anyone can make a bomb with one and a half pages, we will cover his whole body with gold. But of course the inspectors can see this document again.

FT: Are you expecting to go to the Security Council?

AL: Firstly, there is no consensus. Notice President Putin's position against putting Iran under pressure. China has the same view. Some countries want to use force, to bully. If they are doing this, they can't pretend there is consensus. They want to have nuclear bombs themselves but deny Iran the right to have research. Well, such decisions have consequences, and we advise them against such radical behavior. Is this double standard justifiable? The U.S. has external relations with countries who have nuclear bombs but behaves like this towards Iran because it wants nuclear research. Such a double standard damages international relations and is behind the lack of success of the NPT.

FT: How confident are you about Russia's and China's support for Iran's position?

AL: We are focused on our own national capabilities. Go to the streets; ask people -- university professors, laborers, government employees -- their opinion about Iran's rights to nuclear technology. There is a national will over this. The West is making a mistake by putting itself against the national will. Europe could have lots of relations here. They currently, for example, have gas shortages in their cold weather and we could help them over this. Europe can also have investment in our oil sector. The West made a historical mistake in 1953 when it stood against the nationalization of oil -- at that time the West stood against the national will. They should consider this historical experience. If they think any government in Iran could give up nuclear technology, they are mistaken. Look at the government of Mohammad Khatami -- many of these nuclear activities began when he was president [1997-2005].

FT: Are you saying the West needs Iran more than Iran needs the West?

AL: Iran's geopolitical position is outstanding. We are a historical civilization, not a small country. We are influential across the region. We have good human resources. All these factors can create a win-win situation, and this applies to our relations with the West. Shi'ism is a religion of logic. Westerners should stop following the advice of orientalists, who are mainly Zionists. Iran is not like al-Qaeda. To make such a comparison is seriously misleading. I have studied Western philosophy but people in the West can be ignorant about Islam -- look at Mr. Bush's comments about launching a crusade. Such behavior can only develop terrorism in the region.

FT: Is the nuclear issue important enough to upset relations with Europe?

AL: It's not like this. During the time of Mr. Khatami, there were close relations with Europe. He raised the dialogue of civilisations. But the West's behavior has been the same. The question is why the West is so sensitive over the nuclear issue -- if the worry is diversion, then we can find a formula. We talked to Europe for two and a half years to reach guarantees over non-diversion. The Europeans have now told us we cannot have the technology -- is this a solution? If this is accepted, then no-one should have peaceful nuclear technology. So why do we have the NPT? In Iran's case, this is not just a denial of nuclear technology. We are denied ICT [information and communication technology], nanotechnology, and biotechnology. The West won't give us any advanced technology. It seems there are masters and slaves under globalization. Some countries are first-grade and can have such technology, and others are only second-grade.

FT: But, right or wrong, isn't that how the world works?

AL: Superpowers should not behave like this. It damages their interests, it creates terrorist currents. No one can make a bomb through research. We can't tell our scientists they don't have the right to think. Iran is not a small country like some in the Persian Gulf, our weight should be considered.

FT: Are you not concerned about sanctions and being isolated?

AL: It is not without problems. But it will also make problems for others. This is a lose-lose game and we don't recommend it. If they want to use pressure to make us give up nuclear technology, they should reconsider. We won't do this because of fear of sanctions.

FT: Is leaving the NPT an option for Iran?

AL: The NPT is still alive and can survive. Iran will stay in the NPT. If the treaty is implemented well, it can help international order.

FT: You've said that if you're referred to the Security Council, you will not apply the Additional Protocol. Is that the limit of your reaction to referral?

AL: The Additional Protocol and the suspension were approved by the Majlis (Iran's parliament). If we are referred to the Security Council, the government is obliged by the Majlis to lift all voluntary measures including the AP.

FT: Does this mean you would resume fuel production, industrial enrichment?

AL: Yes.

FT: What consequences would referral have elsewhere in the region, for example for the U.S. in Iraq?

AL: There is no necessity to make a link. The U.S. has enough problems in Iraq. Both the U.S. and the British know Iran helped the formation of new government in Iraq and Afghanistan. We were the only country in the region to welcome the formation of a popular government in Iraq, and we have good relations with all parties in Afghanistan. After all the co-operation in Afghanistan, the U.S. called us part of an 'axis of evil.'

FT: Is Iran talking to Mr [Zilmay] Khalilzad [the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad]?

AL: No. This question of talks depends on U.S. behavior. On the one hand they mention talks, but then [Condoleezza] Rice [U.S. secretary of state] says they don't want this to confer legitimacy [on Iran]. So why should we go ahead? The Americans are very confused.

FT: Arab press reports suggest U.S. may be talking to Arab governments about sending troops to Iraq. Would you welcome this?

AL: The Iraqi government should decide. The Americans may want to reduce their presence, but the reason Iraqis have the attitude they do to U.S. troops is their behavior. In one village, Balad, after one attack against U.S. troops, a U.S. commander lined up all the young men and broke their legs and pressed cigarettes into their eyes. The disaster in Iraq comes from such behaviour.

FT: What changes have you made since becoming secretary of the SNSC [in August]? Previously you said your predecessor, Hassan Rowhani, had 'swapped a pearl for a candy' in negotiations with the EU3.

AL: I have great respect for Mr Rowhani. He is my friend. The nuclear issue is clear -- we want nuclear technology and this cannot be weighed against promises like not blocking Iran's entry to the WTO or supplying wings for aircraft.

FT: So what have you changed?

AL: I don't want to say there have been no changes. But the nuclear program goes back to the time of Mr. Hashemi [Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, president between 1989 and 1997].

FT: Are you taking measures against the possibility of U.S. or Israeli attacks?

AL: Yes, we have taken measures. The Israelis have a little bit of wisdom not to make such a mistake. The U.S. also has a little bit of wisdom to realise this would change the regional situation in ways that will not benefit the U.S.

FT: There has been confusion over Iran's transfer of money from Europe. Has Iran been taking measures in advance of a possible referral to the Security Council? Does the SNSC have any responsibility over this?

AL: This is incorrect. Such a decision has not been made. I'm surprised at the media coverage. Iran is pursuing our national interests. Iran will put its foreign exchange reserves wherever is most beneficial.

FT: But this is what Ebrahim Sheibani [governor of the central bank] said?

AL: Mr Sheibani didn't put it like this. We usually hold our foreign exchange reserves in different places. Now, we have our foreign exchange reserves in both European and non-European countries. This is not new. The idea there are new transfers is not correct.