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Interview With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Q. If you were able to purchase this, what would you give in return?

A. We would pay money for the material. It is a good start for cooperation and to engage in cooperation. I also said that we would agree to have our nuclear experts sit down and discuss things with nuclear experts from the other side. This would help with confidence and to remove the concerns that are out there on both sides.

Q. Why do you need to have enriched uranium if you don't have a single operating reactor that requires enriched uranium at this moment?

A. We have a nuclear reactor in Tehran that has been operational for the past 20 or 30 years I would say -- producing medicine. It is still operating. It creates about 20 different kinds of medicine. We have in the past bought the 20% enriched uranium from other countries -- not from the United States. Now we could buy it from the United States. I think it is a good place to start for cooperating and talking. It is an issue that is humanitarian -- it is about medicine.

Q. When you say that nuclear experts from your side will sit down with nuclear experts from the other side to discuss -- are you willing to have those discussions cover the outstanding issues of the IAEA?

A. Why don't we just let them sit and talk and see what capacity they can build?

Q. And this would be part of the Geneva discussions?

A. That is our proposal, yes. Talks are not one-sided. Is that a problem? I think it is a good thing to happen.

Q. How do you see Afghanistan in the future? Do you see Iranian-U.S. cooperation in Afghanistan or do you see a dominant Iran? I am sure you looked at the McChrystal report, which is very bleak.

A. Afghanistan is our neighbor. We have deep historical and emotional ties with the place. Several million Afghans live in Iran. Millions of Afghans and Iranians travel between the two places annually. There are many inter-marriages that take place. Our relations are very deep. Security in Afghanistan affects Iran the most. I would like to see security restored in Afghanistan as soon as possible. I have said from the start that we are ready to assist provided that the policies currently pursued change. We believe that the nature of policies in Afghanistan are completely wrong and there is no need to go about proving it. Many crimes have been committed since the arrival of NATO troops. Obviously the policies are wrong. Even if we were to assist, nothing would be resolved. Afghanistan does not have a military solution to it. Let me ask you something ¿ why is it that the media in the United States does not go in depth analyzing issues? I want to give you reasons here. Has there been anyone around to ask the U.S. government why they entered Afghanistan and engaged at that level?

Q. Did you look at Gen. McChrystal's report? It was very devastating.

A. Yes, it is true but after seven years. Before going in, shouldn't these questions have been asked back then? When the warmongering going on under the Bush administration was at its peak?

Q. But 3,000 people did die in New York on Sept. 11.

A. Sure, but have they managed to reappear and be alive again after the crimes were carried out in Afghanistan? Not only that, but tens of thousands have been killed as the result. You cannot wash blood with blood. Since NATO entered Afghanistan, terrorism has increased tenfold and the production of illicit drugs has increased fivefold. Let me remind you of a historical event -- asking American media to remind their managers as well because this is a responsibility of the media -- if Mr. Bush was forced to study the past century of the history of Afghanistan, I guarantee you he never would have gone there. Experience has shown that whoever went into that territory with military force left with defeat. About 100 years ago, the British forces entered Afghanistan full on and left with a heavy defeat. Thirty years ago the Soviet Union troops entered Afghanistan and left in defeat. What sort of supernatural force did Mr. Bush envision he possessed that would allow him to win a war that the Soviets and the British could never win? We bring this up as a friendly discussion ¿ we care about what happens. We care when people lose their lives. For every loss of life, the solution gets doubly hard to arrive at. If we did not wish well, we could have stayed silent about it. But we keep saying loud and clear that the policies there are incorrect. The wealth of the European and American people is being used there without any result except defeat. This wealth can be used to build friendships or to reconstruct a place, so it worries us. Everyone knows that NATO is close to a final defeat in Afghanistan. We could just stay silent about it and just be an onlooker because some NATO member states happen to be our enemies. We can be happy because they are getting defeated there. But we are not happy. It saddens us to see what happens. We believe and say that there is a humanitarian solution and we are really surprised why politicians and NATO have chosen to put earplugs in their ears and not listen to other forms of criticism. We are willing to even assist them in changing their policies there. The precondition is that they have to be willing to listen. The General's report has clearly said that the policies so far have been wrong. So when are they going to change? We believe there are pivotal, fundamental shifts in policy that need to happen. Otherwise changing packages -- referring to the nuclear package -- without dealing with the substantial part of deeper issues is not going to bring about any results. Policies need to change and we are willing to assist them.

Q. On the nuclear issue, are you saying that Iran would agree to suspend its production of enriched uranium for medicinal purposes if it's allowed to purchase that enriched uranium? And would that be a first step toward further discussion that could include further suspension in return for further purchases.

A. We simply don't have the capacity to enrich at 20 per cent for medicinal purposes, of the sort that we have in mind, at this stage. It's only at three-and-a-half per cent. We had been buying this material in the past, but not from the U.S. government. We can buy it from the United States. It doesn't really matter who we buy it from, so we are open to it. But this does not effect the fuel cycle. But still, it seems to me a nice opening, a nice window to look through.

Q. In other words, you're saying it doesn't affect the centrifuges you're building and the fact that you could re-spin the low-enriched uranium and make it into high-enriched uranium, as I understand it.

A. What I am saying is that you're free to make any interpretation of this that you like. We've been very clear about what we're doing. We're simply saying that we need fuel for our power plants, for our reactor. And based on the IAEA rules, we're entitled to this kind of technical assistance. Please do remember when you leave here that one of the main pivotal shifts that must occur is exclusivity on the focus that we give to certain topics but not to others, which leads to double standards. If you do not shift your own position on these [topics], nothing will change.

Q. So Mr. President, the last question: will you do something for Maziar? Say you'll help him. He works for us. It's a very difficult situation.

A. I will do my effort. Please advise your colleagues not to break the laws.

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