Interview with Mohammad Khatami

Tuesday, September 5, 2006; 10:32 PM

Sept. 4, 2006

On Iran's long-term intentions for its peaceful nuclear energy program and the dangers of developing a weapons capability:

The question is why others don't want Iran to have nuclear technology. They can say that we are worried that Iran may divert it to nuclear weaponry. This concern and worry about the proliferation of nuclear weaponry is very justified and thoughtful. This is a good concern to have. And this is why I myself have made the proposal that we must have a nuclear free zone in the region -- I have made this suggestion at the U.N. and other forums.

We were and we still are ready to negotiate in this field. We have looked upon the European package favorably.

Our negotiations with the European-3 and the [International Atomic Energy] Agency were going well until last year, but unfortunately I believe that a power entered these negotiations to set them off track. . . . It is only through negotiations that there can be objective guarantees that Iran is not diverting toward nuclear weaponry and also objective guarantees for Iran that its security and its fuel will be guaranteed into the future.

It is still my belief that we must proceed with negotiations and nothing must be done to increase the misunderstandings. . . . The package has not been rejected and we have said that it is through negotiations that we can reach a final agreement. And the proposals that Iran has made as far as I can see have strong points in them as well. I believe that the situation can best be resolved by not going toward action that could exacerbate the situation.

On the dangers of U.S. military action against Iran:

Of course we must be concerned about any sort of military strike. Especially since I am the promoter of dialogue among civilizations and an alliance based on peace, I am hoping that this will never come to pass.

So far, whenever the United States has tried to solve its disputes through military means, it has not achieved its objectives -- and also not solved the problem it meant to solve.

The elimination of Saddam Hussein from Iraq was more than anything to Iran's benefit. But even then we were of the belief that the solution is not a military occupation of Iraq. Even then my proposal was that the U.S. and the other permanent members of the Security Council meet with Iraq's neighbors to come up with a solution for the country -- the same as with Afghanistan. But during that time America was arrogant and did not accept this proposal. Today the center of terrorism is located in Iraq . . . and America is facing problems in Iraq.

In this situation, because of the experience that the Americans have had with Iraq and because of American public opinion, I don't believe that the Americans will make the big mistake of attacking Iran. Iran is not Iraq.

While an attack on Iran would create great damage for Iran, it would create a crisis in the region and we can't even predict what the outcome would be. The detriment and damage that this would cause for the people of the region -- for the stability of the entire region as well as for America -- will mean that prudence and wisdom will prevail in the end and America will not make the mistake of attacking Iran.

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