The Latest from Iran (24 December): Another Day, Another Demonstration
Jon Snow: "Mr President do you accept that this country is at a cross roads? We are one week away from the end of the year and that the deadline when you have to give a response to the nuclear offer made by the P5+1.
"The P5 group that meets with Germany from the security council of the United Nations - apparently representing the security council that has made this proposal about enrichment taking the material outside the country, bringing it back. And they say by the end of this year that is the deadline for a response."
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "I think part of this question must be corrected. Actually we have given the proposal for the exchange of the fuel and according to the regulations they have to provide the fuel without any conditions.
"We have offered a proposal in order to provide opportunity for them - in order to have an opportunity for cooperation instead of confrontation. And it is a very simple procedure.
"But they are insisting that to have conditions for giving us the fuel - political conditions I mean - while the exchange of fuel is a technical job. I have not yet heard anybody who has given a deadline for this because it is meaningless.
"We are in a position to produce 20 per cent grade uranium. We have given this offer in order to provide an opportunity for them. If they do not use the opportunity we are in position and we are able to produce that grade of uranium. We have no problem doing it.
"The current regulations in the IAEA[ International Atomic Energy Agency] allow us to do so and we will make it ourselves. From our standpoint there is no problem for that."
JS: "You say there is no problem Mr President but the United States is already taking about sanctions other countries, certainly France and Germany and Britain are also talking about sanctions - that would suggest they don’t see it the same way."
MA: "It is something else the question or issue of revolution or imposing sanctions. We are against the expansionist policies of the United States. We say it frankly and explicitly. We do not accept the policy of intimidation and aggression.
"It will be good for US policy makers to say that Iran is against their policies and the expansions. I think it has become an old issue to talk about the nuclear programme. The story of these claim of US and its allies have turned into a TV series. More our standpoint it has no value."
JS: "It's not just the United States, I mean, the UN inspector you had to tell: you had another facility for enriching uranium at Qom and that was something that you had not declared but you should have declared under the regulations."
MA: "According to the regulations in the IAEA, six months before the beginning of enrichment activities we should have informed them. We did it one year before the activities but unfortunately they have misinterpreted our cooperation. When we cooperate with them they show negative reactions --- what does that mean? They said themselves --- one that is not a member will remain immune from the investigations and verifications. When you cooperate the reactions are negative. What does that mean?
"Does it mean we should not cooperate at all? Or course we do not do not accept this - this is not acceptable for us. But their attitudes are wrong. They want to say that a country which is not a member is free to do everything more than the member. And those countries enjoy more rights and any government who fulfils its obligations would be under pressure. Do they think they can run the world with this logic?"
JS: "But this is the United Nations, this particular group --- and Mr [Mohammad] El Baradei [former head of the IAEA] is supported by both China and Russia on this matter --- you were keeping this particular enrichment facility secret and that has broken confidence and that's really where the new crisis has now developed. A breakdown of confidence between you and the UN inspectorate."
MA: "That's not true. That's not true. They make some claims. They say that the construction of the site started when Iran had accepted certain arrangements but we believe that after we suspended those arrangements we started the construction. And it is very normal for the relations in between countries and the agency.
"Does the US give any reports to agency itself? They have 8,000 nuclear warheads. Who is more dangerous in world and who should be concerned about these things? From what point should they start inspections? The UN has been founded on the basis of veto right can never run the world."
JS: "But Mr El Baradei has said that the friendly relationship that he has enjoyed with Iran had ended. That is a pretty strong statement and it comes from a UN body."
MA: "I have not heard about it. We are keen to have friendly relations with all. But the basis of judgement and cooperation is on a legal basis. We have the official documents from the IAEA and it has endorsed all our activities. We do not regulate our relations based on rhetoric. We do it on the basis of the law and the documents. We cooperate with the agency. And the agency has no right to express political opinions under the pressures of certain governments. The agency has a commitment to inspect the nuclear facilities of the US and other nations too. And the agency should disarm them."
JS: "Mr President, this battle with the IAEA has been going on for years now why do you bother to remain a member of the non-proliferation treaty. Why not just dump it and stay like Pakistan, India and Israel outside the treaty and do what you want to do?"
MA: "We never been fighting against the agency - what should we do?"
JS: "I'm asking you - why do you stay in the treaty?"
MA: "We stay in the treaty and according to entity we have rights and obligations. We have fulfilled our obligations and we should also enjoy rights. And we will never allow political claims to enter into our works and activities."
JS: "This is very difficult for ordinary people to understand. You have the US, you have European powers, you have Russia, you have China, all these countries are very dissatisfied with the answers you have been giving. It's not just the US. You say that it's them that is pulling the strings, if you like, but it's much more than that."
MA: "There are other countries that are unaligned and they have given their votes against them. Shouldn't they adapt themselves with the votes of these 120 countries?"
JS: "Mr President, I'm being warned that our time is very short and I would like to move on. President Obama offered you when he came into power an extended hand…."
MA: "Let me say one more sentence. The number of countries or campaigns of countries do not bring any legal right. That is the law that prevails and it defies your rights. And we are doing everything according to the law. We will never be influenced by the political campaigns. We make the decisions on the basis of our national interests and on the basis of the laws and regulations. The US is against us and we are used to it."
JS: "President Obama did come in and he made this speech in Cairo to you. He offered an extended hand of you would greet it. But you haven’t greeted it. The relationship now, I mean…there is no way that the extended hand is going to stay extended."
MA: "Which hand did he extend? His right hand or left hand?"
JS: "He extended the hand of friendship, let's be honest…"
MA: "What has he done in practice?
"I sent a message to him and we participated in Geneva negotiations. We talked with them and we offered the proposals for a fuel exchange. And we have announced that we stand ready to have a debate in New York. Who has extended his hand in practice? He extended the sanctions against us. What step has he taken?"
JS: "Is the matter of extended hands finished?"
MA: "Extended where? We hope he will succeed in making changes, real changes. And we have helped him. However we are concerned about his avenues - he has failed to meet the expectations of the people in the US and the people of the world."
JS: "But it has been complicated by what has happened here in Iran. There have been disturbances there has been awful scenes of violence on the streets and that has disturbed people inside and outside Iran. That makes it difficult to extend hand doesn't it?"
MA: "We are facing same problems here. While the US has a military build up in Afghanistan and killing our brothers in that country. At same time the US is supporting killing of Palestinians, and they extend the resolutions and sanctions. Worse than that the American police beat people, they arrest people and use batons and tear gas against people… "
JS: "Well, two wrongs don't make righ,t do they Mr President? The Basij here, and we have this firsthand from a member of the Basij, he says they were given the permissions to go in and use no restraint and attack people who disagree with you. Women, men were hit with batons - and some were killed."
MA: "In my opinion you have access to some information which I don’t know."
JS: "Well we have spoken to a Basij who told us what orders they were given."
MA: "With whom did you talk to?"
JS: "We spoke with a member of the Basij who has now run from Iran."
MA: "Clearly this source of information must be very exact. I think it is not correct to judge in this way. In our country the law prevails."
JS: "But you can see videos Mr President. You've scene the pictures of what the Basij were doing and what the Revolutionary Guard were doing. And what he has seen too is the beating and the raping of men and women in detention."
MA: "Did you see all of these things on the pictures?"
JS: "We saw all of the things in the streets - of course we do not get the stories of what happened in the containers where people were being detained."
MA: "There have been clashes amongst some people - how can you find out if he was Basij or another person? Let me repeat that. In my country the law prevails."
JS: "You deny that the Basij beat up these people?"
MA: "No, we are not concerned with these things as you claim. The law prevails. Some people may violate the law in any place anywhere. And maybe they have not observed and respected the law during demonstrations or protests they may have participated in illegal demonstrations. Or they might get involved in clashes whether they are ordinary people or from among the Asians....
"The law will certainly investigate. Iran is a free country. Do you believe that Iran should be like West? We have freedom in Iran - people are free to express their views. They can also cry for their rights…you are making a mistake…."
JS: "But you have sent journalists out of the country…."
MA: "You are making a mistake. And the Western politicians think something happening in Iran and Iran has become weakened. That is a mistake. They do not know Iran. The people of Iran are united and they would certainly defend rights and interests. They would protect their independence. There are different views that exist in this country. There are differences of opinion there are rivals, competitors and they are serious. But the majority of the nation is united and they are determined to protect their independence."
JS: "But, Mr President you contrast today…."
MA: "You can see the scenes on the streets of London where people are being beaten by British police."
JS: "But you can contrast today in Iran with even two years ago: there were many foreign journalists here, there was much for freedom - people could watch what ever they wanted on the Internet or whatever. Now, for example any broadcast or Internet appearance by the BBC is jammed, there are no, or very few foreign correspondents. And it is very difficult now to report on…."
MA: "Who is the BBC owned by? Is it a state owned company or private?"
JS: "It is a state-owned, regulated company which has independence from the government --- we have to pay individually to the BBC to fund it."
MA: "Alright. How can a government institution or state-owned company be independent from the policy of the government? Do you know anywhere in the world where the BBC has acted against the policies of the government? The BBC is the instrument of British government foreign policy and the British government has shown that it is against and hostile to our nation. They have shown that for about 100 years."
JS: "But is that the same for example with Newsweek? Take Maziar Bahari who worked for Newsweek. He gets thrown into jail, he is beaten in jail, he is tortured in jail, he has told me that himself."
MA: "And you have accepted his claims?"
JS: "He is a man I have known for a long time --- I trust him…."
MA: "People say a lot of things. Do you think freedom prevails in US? And do you think the media in the US is free? Why aren't people allowed to have demonstrations against the Zionists? Do you think all the media in the US I against the Palestinians? They are clear facts. We are not going to deceive each other - they are political and media games. And that period is over. It will have not effect in the world. They offer interpretations based on some lies.
"That period is over we should focus on realities and we should talk to each other based on those realities, based on the law. And I think that is a mistake made by the political politicians in the West. They make the media themselves - they create them and they say lies. And based on those lies they take political positions. And at the same time they insist that others should believe them."
JS: "Let's take a story in The Times [of London] this morning. They say that bin Laden's wife lives here in Iran --- is that true? Is that a lie or is that true? That one of Bin Laden's wives lives here in a compound outside Tehran with some family. Is that true or false?"
MA: "Why should it be in London? How did they receive that information? Let me…"
JS: "But you haven’t answered me yes or no, Mr President. However they found out this information, the questions is: is it true or is it false?"
MA: "Let me tell you something else which is more important. Because there are many things like that --- they are producing these things everyday. Because this is the instrument to control the world, they create these things everyday and wise people would never waste time answering all these things."
JS: "How do you change that?"
MA: "Statesmen in the UK and the US must accept the realities in the world. The period of influence in the environment through the media campaigns is over. And we know everything about these tactics and policies. We would never be deceived by media campaigns. It has no value to us. We will never base our time on that.
"For example, about Neda Agha-Soltan. What has the BBC done about her? They created a false scenario based on political campaigns and it has been proven to us. That was a lie…."
JS: "Let's look at a reality. You have 15 per cent inflation. You have real economic difficulties, we have economic difficulties - many countries in the world have economic difficulties. If there is to be more tension between us, more trouble over sanctions, more trouble over who is doing what - wouldn't it be worth just trying a different path? Trying to re-extend a hand of friendship and open up maybe to people coming in and maybe to people going out?"
MA: "I agree with you. We are saying same thing to the Americans and to the British. Why have they been against our people for more than 50 years? There are governments around Iran and they are dictatorships - they are friends with those dictatorships…"
JS: "So what's your offer?"
MA: "Before the revolution we had a dictatorship in Iran. And they had friendly ties with the dictator. But since we have had democracy and freedom in our country they have risen against us."
JS: "Ayatollah Montazeri said this is an Islamic dictatorship."
MA: "One is free to express one's views in Iran. It is not like some European countries where scientists are in prison. Everybody who says anything against the Holocaust goes to prison even if he or she is a university professor."
"This is not the situation in Iran. The government is criticised and people are free to do so. I believe it will be good for the US and British officials to could change attitudes. They should experience friendship."
JS: "What about both changing attitudes - you and them changing attitudes?"
MA: "We would certainly welcome any step in that direction. We have never wanted anything beyond our rights.
"We have never sent our troops to borders of the US or UK. We have never threatened Britain or America with military threats. We have never issued any resolutions against them.
"We want our own rights and of course we are for talks. We are against confrontation. But experiences indicate that those who have chosen to confront us damage their policies."