The View from Tehran

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TIME: Iran has acknowledged that it is holding members of al-Qaeda. What is happening with those detainees?
Kharrazi: There are a bunch of them [in Iran]. They are in custody, and certainly we will take care of them.

TIME: How quickly would Iran like to see the U.S. withdraw from Iraq?
Kharrazi: Once security can be maintained by Iraqi forces, then foreign troops have to be asked by the Iraqi government to leave. I believe Iraqis are very much capable of taking care of their own interests.

TIME: Would Iran ever accept permanent U.S. bases in Iraq?
Kharrazi: We are against that. That is not in the interest of anyone.

TIME: Letís talk about Iranís nuclear program. Are there any circumstances that could lead to a permanent freeze on uranium enrichment by Iran?
Kharrazi: There will not be any permanent freeze, because [it] is our legitimate right to have this [nuclear] technology and produce what we need for the country. No incentive can substitute for our legitimate right.

TIME: What would happen if the U.N. Security Council is asked to deal with Iranís nuclear program?
Kharrazi: Our engagement with the European side was not to stop enrichment but to continue with enrichment in a manner that would assure the other side that we would not divert material for weapons. [In] legal terms, nothing has been done wrong by Iran that could be taken to the Security Council. If for political reasons, the Americans want to push an Iranian foreign policy to the Security Council ... I donít think that would lead to any result that would be wished by the Americans.

TIME: The Security Council could vote for sanctions.
Kharrazi: But we are used to sanctions. We have managed to live and have managed to develop our capacities. One of the capacities that we have developed is nuclear technology.

TIME: Is there an inherent clash between your position and that of the U.S.?
Kharrazi: On the nuclear-weapons issue, there is no clash. But what remains is that Americans make allegations that Iran is pursuing a nuclear-weapons program without being able to prove it.

TIME: There have been reports that the U.S. is flying unpiloted drones over Iran and has introduced surveillance teams into Iran. Is that the case?
Kharrazi: There are such rumors. If true, it proves that the U.S. is violating our sovereignty. And it certainly cannot be tolerated.

TIME: The Middle East peace process is moving slowly ...
Kharrazi: It has not moved. But there is some cease-fire. That doesnít mean there is new movement. I believe the Israelis are playing games. They are not sincere. We are not optimistic about any improvement in the situation.

TIME: What could Iran do to advance the peace process?
Kharrazi: I donít think there is anything Iran can do. It is the responsibility of the Palestinians themselves, and regional countries.

TIME: Vice President Dick Cheney has suggested that Israel might take care of the nuclear problem in Iran. But Ariel Sharon has said that Israel has no plans to do so.
Kharrazi: I donít know if [the Israelis] have such a plan, but we are ready to defend ourselves.

TIME: How would you describe the American attitude toward the Peopleís Mujaheddin, which opposes your government and has been on the U.S. terrorist list for years?
Kharrazi: The Peopleís Mujaheddin has been designated as a terrorist organization by the European countries and the U.S., and there is no reason they should be free to move around [in the U.S.] to collect money, to hold seminars and to contact members of Congress in the United States. This proves the U.S. is not serious about fighting terrorism.

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