Iran's Foreign Minister on the state of the P+5 negotiations

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Interview With Mohammad Javad Zarif
By: Fareed Zakaria

The following transcript is of an exclusive interview with Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of Iran about his nation’s nuclear ambitions, Israel, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remarks before the United Nations General Assembly. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria spoke with Mr. Zarif exclusively on Thursday, October 03, 2013, in New York and will air on Sunday, October 06, 2013 at 10:00am and 1:00pm ET.

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN GPS:  A few weeks ago, it was unimaginable that the president of the United States and Iran would chat.  But of course, it happened. A few weeks ago, very few would have argued that there was a real chance that the United States and Iran would come to terms on Tehran's nuclear program.  But that is exactly what my next guest says. And he should know.  He is the man charged to negotiate a nuclear deal for Iran. Javad Zarif is the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Welcome to the show.

JAVAD ZARIF, FOREIGN MINISTER, IRAN:  Thank you. Thank you for having me.

ZAKARIA:  Tell me first, do you still continue to hold that optimism on the basis of the - the discussions you had?

ZARIF:  Well, the first meeting that we had was positive.  But we didn't get into the details. And usually it's more difficult to negotiate the details. But I think it's a good beginning.  It's a good political jump to the process. And we can start with this, what I hope to be a political will and political desire on the part of the members of E3-plus-3 and Iran to move forward and resolve this issue, because what we have done in the past 10 years has not benefited the P5-plus-1.  It hasn't benefitted Iran.  We have very serious sanctions that are hurting the Iranian people. And at the same time, instead of a few hundred centrifuges that we had 10 years ago or eight years ago, now we have 18,000. So nobody has benefitted from this pattern of relations that we've had over the last eight years. There is a need for change.  And I hope that everybody realizes that we need to change that process, put an end to something that was a lose-lose situation and hopefully begin something that will be to the benefit of everybody.

ZAKARIA:  So let me ask you then, why does Iran need nuclear energy? You are one of the largest oil exporters in the world.  You burn off as much natural gas, that is, you waste as much natural gas as your entire nuclear energy program produces.  This is a huge investment.  And you're enriching - you're creating, as you said, thousands of centrifuges, enriching uranium up to 3.5 percent.  It does seem odd that the world's fifth largest petroleum exporter, at its peak, would need this massive investment in nuclear energy for peaceful electricity, when you have so many sources in oil and gas.

ZARIF:  Well, there are several answers to your question. But in order to be brief, let me just point to them. The first is the diversification of energy resources is a policy that is recommended.  Going through alternative sources of energy is now the major policy option that, both from an environmental perspective, as well as from sustainable development perspective, is being suggested and promoted at the international level. It is interesting to note that in 1974, it was an American corporation, an American consulting firm, that suggested to the shah of Iran, then an ally of the United States, that Iran should procure 20 percent of its energy from nuclear reactors. So I think there are firm grounds to believe that Iran can and needs to diversify its sources of energy for future generations.

ZAKARIA:  There are 40 countries that have civilian nuclear energy.  They do not enrich.

ZARIF:  Yes.

ZAKARIA:  They do not enrich. Why do you need to have the capacity to enrich when most countries that use civilian nuclear energy don't enrich?

ZARIF:  We did not have any intention of enriching.  We owned 20 percent of an enrichment company in France called Eurodif.  Unfortunately, we were not able to even get a gram of enriched uranium from them. They have pushed Iran into a situation where Iran had to rely on itself.  Now, they cannot come back and try to rewrite history.  Iran has had to do this not out of its own choice, but out of necessity.  Iran is a proud nation.  We believe we have the technological capability, we have the human resources in order to stand on our - on our own feet. And once the international community or those who have the capacity deprive us of that, then we will rely on ourselves.

ZAKARIA:  Why do you...

ZARIF:  The...

ZAKARIA:  - why did you build underground nuclear facilities, which were not revealed to the IAEA?

ZARIF:  No, no, no.  You see, again, uh, the facilities in Iran, according to the agreement that we had with the IAEA, now the international mechanisms for monitoring have changed.  They have improved, in fact. But at the time, you were supposed to inform the IAEA 180 days before you introduced uranium to that facility. The facility that we have in - we had in Natanz, when we showed it to the IAEA, not a single gram of uranium had been introduced in that facility.  There had been, in other places.  But unfortunately, they have tried to present a different - a different portrayal.  In the facility in Natanz, which has become the subject of so much international enthusiasm...

ZAKARIA:  Because it was hidden.

ZARIF:  Yes.  It wasn't supposed to be revealed.  We were supposed to reveal that facility to the IAEA 180 days before we introduced uranium to that facility.  And when the secretary general - the director general of the IAEA, the former director general, Mr. Mohamed ElBaradei, went and visited that facility in February of 2002, we had not introduced a single gram of uranium to that facility.  It was a smaller facility where we had done some testing at the laboratory level. Our technicians believed that we did not need to inform the IAEA.  But it has nothing to do with that major facility. But what we can do from now, instead of looking back, is use the IAEA with its monitoring capabilities to make sure that Iran does not deviate from its program. The IAEA has not been able to find a single evidence - and the IAEA has done more investigation in Iran in the past 10 years than probably it has done in any other country.  It has not been able to get to a single evidence that Iran has diverted its activities into non-peaceful operations.   But we are willing to work with the IAEA.  We are willing to answer past questions.  We are willing to take the path of confidence-building and transparency in order to remove any doubt, because, as I said, it is in our own interests to ensure that the international community considers our program to be totally peaceful and totally proliferation-resistant.

ZAKARIA:  And we are back with Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif. What did you think of Prime Minister Netanyahu's remarks at the United Nations?

ZARIF:  Well, unfortunately, some people find it in their interests to deceive the international community and to conduct a policy of fear-mongering. Israel has been pushing the line, since 1992 - perhaps you can find even an earlier version, I haven't - of what I've seen is since 1992, Israel has been saying – and most of it has been Netanyahu himself - that Iran is six months away from a nuclear bomb.  Now, what is it, 20 - 22 years from - 21 years from 1992? We still don't have a bomb.  We won't have a bomb because we don't see it in our interests.  And it's interesting, Israel is one of three states outside the NPT.  Israel has a clandestine nuclear weapons program.  Israel is known to have 200 warheads at least, nuclear warheads.  And it is interesting that that regime take is - has the audacity to go around in the international community and introduce a member of the NPT, who has been in full compliance with its NPT obligations, of being a nuclear threat.  Everybody knows that Israel is a nuclear threat.  Its arsenal - its nuclear arsenal - is a major secretary threat to the region and to the world.  And, in fact, several NPT review conferences, starting with the 1995 NPT review conference, which allowed all of us to renew the NPT and then continuing in 2000 and again in 2010, they have all stressed, with consensus of the international community - in fact, unanimity - that all should join the NPT.  All non-nuclear weapons states should destroy their stockpiles and should join the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states. And it is interesting, really, for him to be going around making these lies, trying to basically sweep under the rug Israeli practices that are the major threat to the security of the region, major violations of the most basic rights of the Palestinian people, just in order to create fear.

ZAKARIA:  But...

ZARIF:  Why is it - why is it that he's worried about a - a deal where the international community can monitor Iran's nuclear program, make sure that it's not - it's never weaponized?

ZAKARIA:  I'll tell you why.

ZARIF:  He - he should...

ZAKARIA:  His argument...

ZARIF:  - he should welcome it.

ZAKARIA:  - his argument is - and he quotes from President Rouhani's book, where he says, this was the strategy, he says, Rouhani adopted the last time he was negotiating.  And the strategy was - and he's quoting from Rouhani's book.  He says:  "By creating a calm environment, a calm environment, by negotiating we were able to complete the work in Isfahan." Isfahan is a place where there's a major reactor that actually has been a critical stepping stone in the Iran - in the Iranian program. And so Netanyahu says, in other words, he's saying we fooled the world once, now he thinks he can fool it again.

ZARIF:  No.  What President Rouhani said in his book, and I have read and edited that book several times when we were both out of office, is that you cannot pursue a peaceful program when the entire international community has concerns and anxieties about your program. You can, in fact - and this is our argument, you can, in fact, pursue a peaceful program only with the cooperation of the international community, only through transparency. This is exactly the opposite of what Netanyahu is trying to portray to the world.  He has been lying.  He continues to lie.  He's been, in fact, investing in creating fear and anxiety in order to pursue ulterior motives.

ZAKARIA:  What did you think of President Obama's statement with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington?

ZARIF:  Well, I believe political leaders have to exercise leadership.  I was rather disappointed that President Obama used language that was - that was insulting to the Iranian people.  I believe President Obama should, in fact, stick to his declared intention to deal with Iran on the basis of mutual respect.  That's what he said in his letter to the president.  That's what he said in his address to the General Assembly.  You do not deal with another state with mutual respect by threatening them, by trying to intimidate them, particularly when you know that that is not useful, that is not of any utility. As I said, the Iranian people react very, very negatively to such languages of threat and intimidation.

ZAKARIA:  Do you think that this nuclear deal, if it happened, could be a step toward normalization of relations with Washington? The reason I ask is, it's difficult for me, looking at how anti-Americanism is so much part of the - at the center of the regime, the "Death to America!" chants that take place every Friday, the reflects to America as "The Great Satan." Do you want to come to terms with the country that you call "The Great Satan?"

ZARIF: What I want to say is that we have a bad history, a bad history of mistrust, a history where we had a good number of activities on the part of the United States, starting from the overthrow of a popularly elected government to whatever happened during the Iraq War, unfortunately, the use of chemical weapons by Iraq, and the failure of the United States to respond with the necessary enthusiasm, unfortunately, as it's doing now, to those chemical weapons.  In fact, there was an attempt by the United States to sweep that under the rug, too.  So there is - there is a lot of cause for concern on the Iranian side and there may be cause for concern on the American side. So we have to move in a serious way to deal with those concerns. But the most important and immediate problem that we need to face right now is the nuclear issue

ZAKARIA:  Javad Zarif, thank you so much for joining us.

ZARIF:  Thank you, Fareed.

Source: CNN Press Room

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