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President in an interview with the CNN

Saudi government should be held accountable on Mina/Iran, US do not have direct talks vis-a-vis Syria/JCPOA is not Iran-US issue, it is international/Iranians want tension ease

President Rouhani said that Saudi Arabia should be held accountable to the deaths of a lot of pilgrims from countries around the world due to its incompetence. And the Islamic Republic of Iran will address this issue both politically and legally.

news id: 89768 -

Thu 01 - October 2015 - 13:59

Some parts of the interview of the President with Christiane Amanpour of CNN which was conducted on the side lines of UN General Assembly is as follows:

Host: It seems that a lot of diplomatic effort will be put on Syria. Has Iran been invited to the political negotiations and will Iran attempt to propose solutions to the Syrian war alongside the US?

President: We have tried from the beginning of the Syrian war 5 years ago to bring back security and stability. We have done a lot in this regard, including discussions and consultation with several countries. We are currently discussing the issue with Iraq and Russia, as well as some members of the European Council. Our main goal is to fight terrorism in Syria seriously and provide the circumstances for the Syrian people to come back to their country which will eventually lead to democracy.

Host: But for a long time the US has said that Iran cannot be a part of these political talks which are aimed at finding a solution to the Syrian issue. Based on what we have heard in Mr Zarif’s meeting with Mr Kerry, have these circumstances been changed?

President: What has been mentioned before, was that our discussion with the US is merely for the sake of addressing nuclear issues and after the agreement being implemented, we may talk about other issues as well.

Host: So, you are saying that currently Iran and the US will not have any discussions regarding Syria?

President: Iran, with the United States, does not have any direct talks vis-a-vis Syria. But Iran simultaneously with the European Union, as well as other countries, does have talks regarding Syria, and those parties to the talks with Iran about Syria are in direct conversations with the United States as well. So perhaps not direct, but there are talks. 

Host: It seems that the US, Britain, Russia, and Iran are all talking about some kind of transfer of power which will result in President Assad staying in power, even for a limited time. Can you predict a time when Mr Assad will not be part of the political geography of this country?

President: In Syria, when our first objective is to drive out terrorists and combating terrorists to defeat them, we have no solution other than to strengthen the central authority and the central government of that country as a central seat of power. So I think today everyone has accepted that President Assad must remain so that we can combat the terrorists. However, as soon as this movement reaches the various levels of success and starts driving out the terrorists on a step-by-step basis, then other plans must be put into action so as to hear the voices of the opposition as well.

Host: Mr President, what do you think Russia is doing? Why is President Putin sending military personnel and fighter jets to Syria and making bases there? Is it because it wants to prevent US’ advancements and developments?

President: The few times that we have met with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, he spoke in quite a bit of detail about this very issue. Russia has decided to undertake a much more serious level of operations in combat against the terrorists in Syria. And during the last meeting he did announce that some countries such as Iran, Iraq, or Russia must form a semi, a quasi, coalition in order to assist in this fight against Daesh or ISIS and other groups resembling it. And he told me that he had even spoken with Mr Obama about this topic, and he would like to renew his commitment to the fight and the defeat of Daesh or ISIS. And he told me, President Putin said, that Mr Obama welcomed that analysis and that plan. So even previously the United States of America was made aware. And even in the same meeting he told me that he had spoken with Mr Erdogan and others. So it was speculated that Russia will become more active on regional issues, including in the fight Daesh. And now it has put more effort in the region to fight Daesh.

Host: Why is Iran backing someone who has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and used barrel bombs; someone who, as some people say, is responsible for the creation of Daesh and these kinds of groups?

President: The truth is that there are two pictures of Syria. First is one that you mentioned, and second is one that Iran and some groups in the region including Russia see. When Saddam Hussein attacked us and created the 8-year war, one of the countries which helped us was Hafiz Assad’s Syria. We have since had a good relationship with this country. Regarding the 33-day war between Israel and Lebanon in 2006, Hezbollah, after defeating Israel, announced that they enjoyed Bashar Assad’s support. Therefore, Syria is one of our old friend in the region and this is quite clear. There may be problems with Mr Assad’s regime but the truth is that the first and foremost threat in Syria is Daesh. They treat cruelly with the people. I believe that we should all agree the first priority be fighting terrorism and the second, carrying out political reform in the country.

Host: You mentioned that Syria has long been your good friend in the region. Is this the time for Iran to have a new interpretation of its friends? Everybody says that before Daesh was formed, Assad’s regime drove people out of their cities.

President: When the protest started in Syria, it did not take long for the terrorist groups to join them. Of course, it was not named Daesh then. Daesh fought with other terrorist groups and isolated them. So, in the beginning months it turned into a civil war. When protest turns into a civil war, the central government will fight with the terrorists. This is the case for any country. You saw how the central government in London fought with a group and called them terrorists. If the same happens to the US, circumstances would be the same, as it did in Oklahoma. In Syria, some people have been displaced and the terrorist groups have occupied big proportions of the country and there is no security. I am sure that if you ask people of Syria and even those who oppose the Assad regime about which troops do they prefer to come to their cities, Daesh or the Syrian Army, I am sure that they will choose the Army.

 Host: Despite the historical deal signed between you and the US, you have imprisoned some Americans, one of them being our colleague, Jason Rezaian. Do you think that addressing these cases could speed up with more justice?

President: Their imprisonment has nothing to do with the deal and their allegations are related to other matters. There are a number of Iranians in the United States who are imprisoned, who went to prison as a result of activities related to the nuclear industry in Iran. Once these sanctions have been lifted, why keep those folks in American prisons? So they must be freed; and if the Americans take the appropriate steps and set them free, certainly the right environment will be open and the right circumstances will be created for us to do everything within our power and our purview to bring about the swiftest freedom for the Americans held in Iran as well.

Host: Does this mean that if one side frees prisoners, the other will do so too? Is there any way to free at least one prisoner before the other side does?

President: I personally believe that we should help any prisoner if we can. We should be able to replace imprisonment with other alternatives. In today’s world there are a lot of alternatives such as electronic devices. Therefore, I agree with helping prisoners liberate sooner and my government are seeking to do that. But if Americans take the right path with regard to our prisoners, that would surely be effective.

Host: To check if I have understood it correctly, are you now taking care of what you just said?

President: There have been discussions on consulate issues sometimes. Yes. If it is even today, I will not be surprise because there has been discussions about this before.

Host: This is your first trip to the US after signing the JCPOA. Does the Supreme Leader of Iran agree and support the deal?

President: He has said from the beginning that he agrees with the principle of agreement. He has also pinpointed some issues and the red lines for the negotiators to observe. Those red lines have been observed by the negotiators and therefore there is no reason for the Supreme Leader not to agree with the nuclear deal.

Host: What about the parliament? Has it agreed? As you know, the American parliament could not stop the deal from happening. What about Iran’s parliament?

President: As you know, the parliament of Iran has formed a special committee in this regard. The committee is supposed to report to the parliament today. The parliament can take two actions: to turn it into a statement and publish it, or to turn it into a plan for some MPs to sign. Any of them could be reported at the end of this week.

Host: Some candidates of the presidential elections of the US have said in their campaign that they will tear off the agreement if they are elected. What is your reaction to the deep and serious lack of trust here about Iran’s commitment?

President: First, we need to pay attention to some issues. Sometimes when I would have time some of broadcast live and I would watch it. Some of it was quite laughable. It was very strange, the things that they spoke of. Anyone who has some knowledge about Iran would notice the wide gap with the facts. Some of them wouldn’t even know where Tehran was in relation to Iran. Some of them wouldn’t know where Iran was geographically, not distinguishing that one is the capital of the other. What they spoke of was quite far away from the truth. So, the people of Iran were looking at it as a form of entertainment, if you will, and found it laughable.  The next issue is that it is natural for some people in the US to agree or disagree with the agreement. But the issue of JCPOA is not between Iran and US, it is an international issue. It is an issue which has been discussed between Iran and six world powers, not just with the US. And it has been passed in the UN Security Council. Can a government become a signatory to an international agreement and then the subsequent government tear it to shreds? This is something that only the likes of Saddam Hussein would do. So, any government that replaces the current government must keep itself committed to the commitments given by the previous administration. Otherwise, that government, that entire country will lose trust internationally. I think this is more like a propaganda.

Host: Some people are concerned about international inspectors not having access to military bases. Mr President what do you have to explain to that concern?

President: Why should they be worried? By the time this agreement becomes implemented, it means that we will implement the Additional Protocol and the Additional Protocol to its own rules. Today 120 countries in the world implement the Additional Protocol and Iran will be the 121st. Anything that is conducted in other countries will be conducted to Iran as well. There will be no difference between Iran and other countries.

Host: We are still hearing some chants against “the Great Satan” from the time when the agreement was signed. There are hardliners in both countries but do you see a day when the US is not the Great Satan anymore?

President: This word is not for these days. It goes back to 1980 when Late Imam Khomeini brought the issue, the time when Americans threatened us of military intervention. This slogan is not a new thing and it has been there for 37 years. Iranians are naturally upset about US’ intervention in Iran, its support of occupying countries, its military intervention, and its support of Saddam during the war. So, it is natural for them to chant slogans against US.

Host: That is right. I know the date. But the people of Iran want better relations even before the nuclear agreement. Do you see any better relations with the US, something beyond the nuclear deal?

President: People of Iran want tensions to ease between the two countries. I have stated in my presidential campaign that I intend to have constructive interaction with the world, to have more natural and normal relationship with the countries which we had tensions with. I think after two years Iran and US have become closer. Two years ago no one could imagine the ministers of the two countries to sit together and talk for hours.

Host: So, is it possible that both Iranian and American president shake hands and spend time on talking?

President: This symbolic move is not so important to me whether to run across each other and say hello or to sand letters. Of course sometimes he writes letters and I write letters to. The most important issue is that there is a wide gap between the two countries and we have to make up for the last 37 years. It is important to find a solution to these issues which are 37 years long or how we can bring the two nations closer to each other. It is not the issue of forgetting the past, it is the issue of making amends and seeing the future. I believe that people of Iran are willing to look to the future instead of staying in the past.

Host: A lot of people have been killed in the recent Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and you were so furious about it. Why did you react this way? Why do you hold the Saudi government accountable?

President: The Saudi government is responsible for the pilgrims as a host. This year, two strange incidents happened. Once, a crane collapsed in the Masjid al-Haram and caused some die, including Iranians. And in the recent incident in Mina a lot of people died and injured. Saudi Arabia has not yet given us the exact figure. What is for sure, is that so far 150 Iranians have been killed and that figure could rise because many are missing. This illustrates the incompetence and unplannedness of the Saudi government. They have apparently fully focused on killing the Yemeni people and they do not have time to plan for their own people or the guests of the God’s house. This is regrettable and they should be held accountable and we will address the issue both politically and legally.

Host: Mr President thank you for your time.

President: Thank you.

news id: 89768

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