Iran's Chief Nuclear Negotiator: 'We Have to Be Constantly on Guard'

Part 3: 'We Are Suspicious of the West'

Photo Gallery: 'We Are Suspicious of the West' Photos
AFP

SPIEGEL: Your country always sees itself in the role of the victim. No one would hit upon the idea of attacking Iran if your government would back down in the nuclear conflict. In a few days' time, you will meet with representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany in Istanbul. What offer to resolve the conflict do you plan to present in Turkey?

Jalili: We want to talk about fundamental problems in world politics. That includes nuclear issues. Why hasn't global disarmament been achieved? Why are 200 American nuclear weapons stationed in Europe? I know that the German population is also concerned about this.

SPIEGEL: Isn't there a serious misunderstanding here? You want a general discussion about global issues, while the other side wants to talk specifically about uranium enrichment and guarantees that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon.

Jalili: At our last meeting with this group in Geneva in December, we agreed on a sentence: negotiations in Istanbul on cooperation in areas of common concern. Period. Uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes is not up for discussion. It's a basic right to which we are entitled under the nonproliferation agreement, and one that we will never give up.

SPIEGEL: The West is suspicious of your claims because it feels it has been disappointed by Iran so many times before …

Jalili: … and we are suspicious of the West.

SPIEGEL: And it's carried on like this for years. There has been no significant progress. You continue to enrich uranium, in spite of all the UN sanctions, and the international community decides on measures to deter you from doing so. It's mainly the Iranian people that suffer as a result. The fifth round of international punitive measures is in the works.

Jalili: This is not a threat for us. We see it as a great opportunity to expand our economic independence. Sanctions help us achieve this goal. We are positively happy about them. For example, we had to import gasoline before the sanctions, and now we're exporting it.

SPIEGEL: You want us to believe that, at a time when the price of gasoline has just shot up?

Jalili: Yes, because this price increase is not a result of the UN resolutions, but of the targeted, comprehensive elimination of subsidies. We could afford to do this because the population supports us completely. This move, which is the biggest intervention in our economy since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, is proof of our self-confidence in political and economic matters.

SPIEGEL: Your self-assurance is breathtaking. Do you really not worry that the external and internal pressure will become overwhelming, and that the days of Iran's theocracy are numbered?

Jalili: I can only laugh in response. For the last 30 years, our enemies have predicted our demise every six months. Anyone betting on those predictions has lost. The Islamic Republic cannot be shaken by anything or anyone.

SPIEGEL: Mr. General Secretary, thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Dieter Bednarz and Erich Follath

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About Saeed Jalili
REUTERS
Saeed Jalili, 45, ran the office of religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for four years and is seen as a close confidant of the most powerful man in Iran. Since 2007 Jalili, who holds a doctorate in political science, has also served as Tehran's chief negotiator in talks about the nuclear conflict.

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