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SPIEGEL Interview with Iranian President Ahmadinejad: 'We Are Neither Obstinate nor Gullible'

Part 3: 'We Are Concerned and Deeply Mistrustful'

Ahmadinejad: What do you mean by that?

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we mean that the world is waiting for a sign from you, that we are waiting for a sign. Why do you not at least temporarily suspend uranium enrichment, thereby laying the groundwork for the commencement of serious negotiations?

Ahmadinejad: These discussions are outdated. The time for that is over. The 118 members of the Non-Aligned Movement support us unanimously, as do the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. If we eliminate duplication between the two groups, we have 125 countries that are on our side. If a few countries are opposed to us, you certainly cannot claim that this is the entire world.

SPIEGEL: We are talking about Europe and the United States, where not a single politician wants to meet with you. Senior Italian politicians avoided you at a UN conference in Rome last year.

Ahmadinejad: We see that too, of course. But we are saying that Europe is not the whole world. Why do you believe this? Besides, I didn't even want to meet the Italian politicians.

SPIEGEL: Even if you refuse to believe it, the most important international body, the United Nations Security Council, is often unanimously opposed to you. Not just the Western powers, but also China and Russia have already approved sanctions against Iran.

Ahmadinejad: Allow me to set things straight, both legally and politically. At least 10 members of the UN Security Council…

SPIEGEL: …which includes, in addition to the permanent members, US, Russia, Great Britain, France and China, 10 elected representatives based on a rotating principle…

Ahmadinejad: …have told us that they only voted against us under American and British pressure. Many have said so in this very room. What value is there to consent under pressure? We consider this to be legally irrelevant. Politically speaking, we believe that this is not the way to run the world. All peoples must be respected, and they must all be granted the same rights.

SPIEGEL: What right does Iran feel deprived of?

Ahmadinejad: If a technology is beneficial, everyone should have it. If it is not, no one should have it. Can it be that America has 5,400 nuclear warheads and Germany has none? And that we are not even permitted to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear energy? Our logic is completely clear: equal rights for all. The composition of the Security Council and the veto of its five permanent members are consequences of World War II, which ended 60 years ago. Must the victorious powers dominate mankind for evermore, and must they constitute the world government? The composition of the Security Council must be changed.

SPIEGEL: You are referring to India, Germany, South Africa? Should Iran also be a permanent member of the Security Council?

Ahmadinejad: If things were done fairly in the world, Iran would also have to be a member of the Security Council. We do not accept the notion that a handful of countries see themselves as the masters of the world. They should open their eyes and recognize real conditions.

SPIEGEL: Those real conditions include your refusal to abandon your nuclear program, despite international pressure. Does this mean that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, can save themselves the trouble of holding talks with Iran? Will uranium enrichment not be discontinued under any circumstances?

Ahmadinejad: I believe that they already reached this conclusion in Vienna. Why did we become a member of the IAEA? It was so that we could use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. When a country becomes a member of an international organization, must it only do its homework or is it also entitled to rights? What assistance have we received from the IAEA? Did it provide us with any know-how or knowledge? No. But according to its statutes, it would have been required to do so. Instead, it simply executed instructions coming from America.

SPIEGEL: With all due respect, Mr. President, Iran has concealed, tricked and misled, thereby arousing the world's suspicions. Unfortunately, the suspicion that you are abusing your rights and secretly developing a bomb is not so far fetched.

Ahmadinejad: Where did we use trickery? That's a huge lie! We cooperated with the Atomic Energy Agency. And besides, wasn't the IAEA founded so that the nuclear powers would disarm? Where are the reports that document who has disarmed, and to what extent? It simply has not happened. We are concerned, and we are deeply mistrustful.

SPIEGEL: The world distrusts you, and the world's greatest concern is that you are building the bomb, because you feel surrounded by nuclear powers, the United States, India and Pakistan, and not least because Israel possesses the bomb.

Ahmadinejad: We have no interest in building a nuclear weapon. We have sent the IAEA thousands of pages of reports and made thousands of hours of inspections possible. The IAEA cameras monitor our activities. Who is dangerous, and whom should the inspectors distrust? Those who secretly built the bomb, or us, who are cooperating with the IAEA?

SPIEGEL: One can certainly not speak of a true willingness to cooperate on your part. Director General ElBaradei has repeatedly said this in our conversations and this is also documented in publicly-available IAEA reports.

Ahmadinejad: Allow me to make two final observations regarding the nuclear dispute. First, as long as there is no justice, there can be no solution. One cannot measure the world with a double standard -- that was Mr. Bush's big mistake. The Americans should not make the same mistake again. We say: We are willing to cooperate under fair conditions. The same conditions, and on a level playing field. The second observation concerns the warmongers and Zionists …

SPIEGEL: … your eternal enemy of convenience …

Ahmadinejad: …whose existence thrives on tension and who have become rich through war. And then there is a third group, the intolerant, those who are only interested in power. Mr. Obama's biggest problem has to do with domestic policy. On the one hand, America needs Iran and must newly realign itself. On the other hand, the new US president is under pressure from these groups. Courageous decisions are needed, and the ball is in Obama's court.

SPIEGEL: Until recently, your views about America included the conviction that a black man could never become president of the United States. Is it possible that you have a faulty and completely distorted image of America?

Ahmadinejad: No, it wasn't the way you describe it. We hope that the changes in American policy are of a fundamental nature, and that more has changed than the color. And that American policy will become more equitable, for the benefit of Africa, Asia and, most of all, the Middle East.

SPIEGEL: You have become one of the most powerful political players in the region because you have become a champion of the Palestinian cause.

Ahmadinejad: We are defending more than the basic rights of oppressed Palestinians. Our proposal for resolving the Middle East conflict is that the Palestinians should be allowed to decide their own future in a free referendum. Do you think it right that some European countries and the United States support the occupying regime and the unnatural Zionist state, but condemn Iran, merely because we are defending the rights of the Palestinian people?

SPIEGEL: You are talking about Israel, a member of the United Nations that has been recognized worldwide for many decades. What would you do if a majority of the Palestinians voted for a two-state solution, that is, if they recognized Israel's right to exist?

Ahmadinejad: If that were what they decided, everyone would have to accept this decision…

SPIEGEL: …and you too would have to recognize Israel, a country that you have said, in the past, you would like to "wipe off the map." Please tell us exactly what you said and what you meant by it.

Ahmadinejad: Let me put it this way, facetiously: Why did the Germans cause so much trouble back then, allowing these problems to arise in the first place? The Zionist regime is the result of World War II. What does any of this have to do with the Palestinian people? Or with the Middle East region? I believe that we must get to the root of the problem. If one doesn't consider the causes, there can be no solution.

SPIEGEL: Does getting to the root of the problem mean wiping out Israel?

Ahmadinejad: It means claiming the rights of the Palestinian people. I believe that this is to everyone's benefit, to that of America, Europe and Germany. But didn't we want to discuss Germany and German-Iranian relations?

SPIEGEL: That's what we are talking about. The fact that you deny Israel's right to exist is of critical importance when it comes to German-Iranian relations.

Ahmadinejad: Do you believe that the German people support the Zionist regime? Do you believe that a referendum could be held in Germany on this question? If you did allow such a referendum to take place, you would discover that the German people hate the Zionist regime.

SPIEGEL: We are confident that this is not the case.

Ahmadinejad: I do not believe that the European countries would have been as indulgent if only one-hundredth of the crimes that the Zionist regime has committed in Gaza had happened somewhere in Europe. Why on earth do the European governments support this regime? I have already tried to explain this to you once before…

SPIEGEL: …when we argued about your denial of the Holocaust three years ago. After the interview, we sent you a film by SPIEGEL TV about the extermination of the Jews in the Third Reich. Did you receive the DVD about the Holocaust, and did you watch it?

Ahmadinejad: Yes, I did receive the DVD. But I did not want to respond to you on this question. I believe that the controversy over the Holocaust is not an issue for the German people. The problem is more deep-seated than that. By the way, thank you once again for coming. You are Germans, and we think very highly of the Germans.

SPIEGEL: Do you have a message for the German government?

Ahmadinejad: I sent a letter to Ms. Merkel three years ago, in which I emphasized the importance of our historical cultural and economic relations and called upon Germany to exercise more independence.

SPIEGEL: There will be a presidential election in Iran on June 12. You are considered the favorite. Are you going to win?

Ahmadinejad: Let's see what happens. Nine weeks is a long time. In our country, there are no winners and, therefore, no real losers.

SPIEGEL: If you are reelected, will you be the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran to shake the hand of an American president?

Ahmadinejad: What do you mean?

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, thank you for the interview.

Interview conducted by Dieter Bednarz, Erich Follath and Georg Mascolo. Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

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