|Southwest Asia News Digest
Iranian Official: Why Nuclear Energy Is Considered an Important National Asset
On March 6, in the Tehran Times, Dr. Ali Larijani, the representative of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on the Iran's Supreme National Security Council, gave a wide-ranging interview discussing Iran's nuclear program and the current talks between Iran and the European Union. Larijani listed the reasons why Iran needs nuclear energy, and why the nation will protect its right to the technology. The interview, in sharp contrast to neo-conservative, and physiocratic strategists who believe that developing countries, especially in the Middle East, should not have nuclear power, gives a good idea of how Iranians view the issue. Excerpts from the interview follow.
Tehran Times: Mr. Larijani, it is said that if Iran gives up its nuclear fuel cycle program, Europe and the United States are prepared to sell Iran seven reactors and provide nuclear fuel to Iran. What is your opinion on the matter?
Larijani: First, the nuclear fuel cycle program belongs to the Iranian nation and all Iranians view it as a national achievement. See, nobody asks in which French state Louis Pasteur succeeded in discovering the tuberculosis virus. What is important for the French people is that Louis Pasteur was a Frenchman and his achievement belongs to the French people. Iran's nuclear fuel cycle is a national achievement and the product of the efforts of young Iranian scientists with an average age of 30, and it belongs to the whole Iranian nation and not to the officials who want to give it up.
Secondly, Iran's nuclear fuel cycle is totally in the service of the economic and social development of the country. In the 1970s, studies showed that in order to achieve 8% economic growth per year by the year 2010, Iran would have to consume all its oil, and therefore, plans to generate 7,000 megawatts of nuclear energy were made, and at that time, the Americans themselves consulted with Iran in this regard. Economic development in Iran, like any other place in the world, is dependent on the production of nuclear energy. One cannot sell oil and buy nuclear fuel. The plan for the nuclear fuel cycle is for the production of energy. It is not fair that France with a population of 60 million has the right to produce 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy and the Iranians should be denied such a development. No government has the right to deny the people their rights.
Thirdly, indigenous nuclear technology is more than a right; rather, it is a need. The Iranian people need to utilize new scientific achievements and improve their standard of living by accessing nuclear energy. In fact, if Europe and the U.S. agree to sell nuclear rectors and nuclear fuel to Iran, they have recognized the Iranian nation's right to make use of nuclear technology.
Fourthly, Iran has never trusted and will never be able to trust the stances adopted by Britain and the U.S. and [their stances] are also incompatible with our independent policy. In any case, why should we plant our seeds in someone else's field? We will plant in our own field and the product will also be ours.
Fifthly, the Americans are not concerned about our nuclear technology development due to nuclear bombs. Rather, they realize that with this development, the industrial level of our country will rise. We have to consider the fact that accessing nuclear technology is a launch-pad for the country's future and like the nationalization of oil, the people desire it.
Q: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has confirmed that the Bush Administration is studying proposals from Europe to grant economic incentives to Iran in return for the Islamic Republic's agreement to completely halt its uranium enrichment activities. Since the Bush Administration has so far stated that it is not willing to grant any concession to Iran or cooperate with the country, do you think this marks a major change of policy in the U.S. approach toward Iran?
Larijani: This change of policy can be considered as a kind of withdrawal in the U.S. diplomacy toward Iran's nuclear issue. But it is important to realize that this does mean the U.S. has changed its goal to completely halt the nuclear fuel cycle in Iran. I personally believe that the efforts of the U.S. and Europe are aimed at intensifying pressure on Iranian nuclear officials so that Iran's nuclear program will be brought to an end by the hands of the Iranian government itself. Therefore, I believe that the recent remarks of the Bush Administration are only part of a new tactic to reach the main goal.
Q: U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters in Brussels that Iran should do what Europe and the U.S. want it to do, that is, halt its nuclear activities. He stressed that the European negotiators have directly asked Iran to end its nuclear program. What is your opinion about the future of the Iran-EU nuclear negotiations, in view of the current circumstances?
Larijani: Defending Iran's right to gain access to nuclear energy in order to improve people's lives is what is important for us in the negotiations, and we will not renounce this right. Our aim is to maintain our national achievements in the talks. If the U.S. and Europe attempt to trample upon Iran's national interests, this would be their biggest mistake, because the Europeans cannot show that they are incapable of resolving international issues since this would be a very bad experience for them. Our aim in the negotiations is merely to build confidence through mutual understanding. We believe that the Islamic Republic should try to prevent the creation of a negative atmosphere against Iran in the international arena through cooperation and mutual understanding. By continuing with negotiations we have not only left the U.S. without any pretext against us, but have also prevented any kind of U.S. adventurism against Iran. The government should make use of foreign cooperation so long as it does not harm its national interests. The continuation of talks up until now was meant for confidence building. However, I believe that the issue of confidence building in Iran's nuclear dossier is a two-edged sword. If the Europeans consider it to be one-sided, and as Iran's debt to the West, then the negotiations will not be negotiations at all, but a dictated text meant to humiliate the nation....
Q: Following the recent negotiations with Europe, a member of the Iranian negotiating team announced that Iran would resume nuclear fuel production if the negotiations were not successful. Do you think the nuclear talks will reach a successful conclusion?
Larijani: I would first like to emphasize that a successful conclusion of the talks with Europe would lead to the resumption of nuclear fuel production in a short period and nothing more. If Europe is truly seeking objective guarantees from Iran that its nuclear program will not be diverted, then we can be hopeful that the talks will be successful. It seems that French President Jacques Chirac has a better understanding [with Iran] about the mechanism of objective guarantees rather than demanding a complete freeze of Iran's nuclear program.