Paris 14 Feb. (Liberation) Special Advisor to Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who as the last word on every major issue, Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati can be considered as the de facto spokesman for the leader. Foreign Affairs minister of the regime for 17 years, he granted an exceptional interview to Bernard Guetta, the special correspondent of the Italian daily “La Republica”, which was also carried out by the French leftist daily “Liberation” and other publications.
In the interview, Mr. Velayati sounds totally different from the bellicose rhetoric of fanatic President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, looking conciliatory on important issues such as Iranian nuclear problem or Hollocaust, saying, among other things, that “everything is negotiable” or the Holocaust is a “historical fact”.
if we continue to pronounce for a peaceful settlement of this problem, no idea must be a priori unacceptable, neither for us nor for whomever.
The difference to tone between the two men is a remarkable prove for the sharp difference of opinions that pits the hard line faction of the leadership to the so-called “pragmatists”, led by former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Ringing the same tune as Mr. Velayati, who served as top Iranian diplomat under Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, this latter is reported to have said “Iran will remove obstacles" blocking negotiations with the United States “if Washington shows good will.
"Any time the United States sends a signal showing good will in its dealings with Iran, we will in return remove obstacles in the way of negotiations," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Rafsanjani as saying.
Following is the full text of Mr. Guetta’s interview with Dr. Velayati:
Bernard Guetta - Is the crisis or is there still place for negotiations on your nuclear agenda?
Dr. A.A. Velayati - This problem can be solved without crisis because we aspire only to the security of our country, the area and the world.
Bernard Guetta - Can it be it on the basis of parallel suspension of the United Nations Security Council’s sanctions and your operation of uranium enrichment?
Dr. Velayati - I spoke about this with Vladimir Putin, last week in Moscow. We do not have divergences on this point.
Bernard Guetta - Concretely speaking, do you accept the parallel idea of suspension as suggested by Mohammed el-Baradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency?
The problem is that his acts do not follow his words.
Dr. Velayati - We accept readily that Mohammed el-Baradei is our interlocutor on this subject. It is necessary now that he presents a written proposal to us and that we can examine it. We consulted each other, here in Teheran, and our negotiator, Mr. Laridjani, received instructions.
Bernard Guetta - You did not answer me...
Dr. Velayati - The doors are large open for negotiation with Mohammed el-Baradei. There is no limitation.
Bernard Guetta - Even not on a suspension of your enrichment operations?
Dr. Velayati - We already accepted them, these last years, for a two year and half suspension, but, at the end, it appeared that one wanted us to give up the nuclear energy, which was completely unenvisageable. This suspension therefore led to any agreement, but, if we continue to pronounce for a peaceful settlment of this problem, no idea must be a priori unacceptable, neither for us nor for whoever. We have only one red line: the respect of our right to the nuclear energy, which is guaranteed to us by the treaty of non-proliferation. We do not want military nuclear power but, I insist, I repeat it, each one must know that our right to the civil nuclear power is a red line and that we will defend it without anything to yield.
Bernard Guetta - Can one believe that Iran does not want the bomb, whereas you want "to wipe off the map" a member State of the United Nations?
Dr. Velayati -I understand that you mean about Israel, but what our Guide siad, our Supreme Authority, whom Iran talks from his mouth, is that all the inhabitants, Moslems, Jews and Christians, of this territory which we call Palestine must decide, democratically, on its future. It is with the democracy to solve this problem.
Bernard Guetta - Can one believe that when Iran has just organized an international conference denying the reality of the Holocaust?
Dr. Velayati - I did not take part in this conference, but the purpose of it was not to deny the Holocaust. It wanted to try to examine the facts. One can wonder about the number of the victims of this genocide without denying that it took place. And can I remind you, on this subject, that Holocaust was made by Europeans, the Nazis, and that this massacre had been prepared by all European persecutions of the previous centuries, to start with those that Spain had organized? At all events, Coran teaches us that: "When somebody takes the life of an innocent, he kills the whole of humanity". There never was genocide against the Jews in the lands of Muslims. To the contrary, it was in the Ottoman Empire, to which they brought all their talents, that the Jews of Spain had been able to find refuge.
Bernard Guetta - Is the genocide thus a historical reality?
Israel has still to withdraw farms of Chebaa, which are Lebanese territory. It must cross this step.
Dr. Velayati - Yes, but we do not accept that this reality be used to justify the oppression of the Palestinians.
Bernard Guetta – By listening to you, one really wonders why one must hear coming from Iran in so many months, so much incendiary declarations...
Dr. Velayati - If our declarations were "incendiary", as you say, they were not more incendiary than those of General de Gaulle on his time. Remember his "Live free Quebec!"...
Bernard Guetta – Come on, all the same! De Gaulle never stated "Canada off the world”.
Dr. Velayati - No... Only to dislocate it.
Bernard Guetta - Iraq plunges in the civil war. Why are you opposed to a federal solution which could, perhaps, to stop this chain of events?
Dr. Velayati - We never said that...
Bernard Guetta - All your diplomats say it...
Dr Velayati - We never said that, because it is to the Iraqis to decide what they want to do in their house. If they choose federalism and if this is their decision, O.K.
Bernard Guetta - Your influence in Iraq is great. What do you propose there?
Dr. Velayati - We do not have only an influence in Iraq. We have also 1 200 kilometers of border with this friendly country of which we accommodated the refugees so many times, who are now in command in Baghdad. We think that one must support the Government that is the verdict of the ballot boxes, to help with the rebuilding and to put a term to the occupation.
Bernard Guetta - George Bush does not say anything different...
Dr. Velayati - The problem is that his acts do not follow his words and that even the American elected officials who ask for a recall of the troops, they also wants the United States to keep it’s bases in Iraq, to weigh on the future of the area.
Bernard Guetta – Sunnis regimes also wish it, because you frighten them.
Dr. Velayati - Their fear is not founded. It is not we who elected a Shi’ite majority in Iraq, but the Iraqis, who are to 60 % Shi’ites. There is a majority which must, like everywhere else, to get along with the minorities. It is for this reason that we propose the organization of a conference on regional stabilization, in particular dealing with terrorism. We all must face the development which terrorism has gained since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and since the attacks of 11 September, the greatest catastrophe of the contemporary history, because its victims were the innocent ones.
La Reubblica - This desire of regional stabilization is contradicted by your support for the Lebanese Hezbollah. Isn't it time of tell it to disarm?
Dr. Velayati - To facilitate the work of Israel?
Bernard Guetta - There is nearly ten years that Israel withdrew itself from Lebanon and one would say that the obsession of Hezbollah is there to bring back it, like last summer.
Dr. Velayati - Israel has still to withdraw farms of Chebaa [70 square kilometres bordering on Syria, note], which are Lebanese territory. There remains a step to be crossed and, as long as the Lebanese government will remain weak, Hezbollah is a deterrent force. Before every thing, it is necessary for all to reinforce the Lebanese government. ENDS VELAYATI INTERVIEW 14207