Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is facing political isolation amid a brutal struggle for power in Iran. The country is also being crippled by international sanctions, widely accused of relentless human rights abuses and threatened by the regime’s nuclear ambitions. In an exclusive interview with euronews, the president spoke about a wide range of issues including the trial of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, and Iran’s relationship with Europe.
Jon Davies, euronews: Mr president can I start with some compelling images which we saw today on Iranian TV, on TV throughout the Middle East and throughout the world. We saw former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, on a stretcher in a cage being accused of corruption and mass murder. What were your thoughts when you watched those pictures?
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: I should express regret that some leaders have such a tarnished relationship with their people that they get to this point. We should express regret for the management of some nations. In order to achieve a certain level of freedom, they have to ask for the trial of their leaders. I hope that world management would revise in a manner, that world leaders will come from among people and will work for the people along with the people. We hope that there will be no clashes or fights among the people.
en: Syria is another example. Mr President. We’re seeing an ongoing uprising there as we’ve seen in many other countries in the Middle East – an ongoing and very bloody uprising too. Do you think that President Assad is handling the situation there well?
MA: “We believe that the nations have a right to have freedom; they should be free to make their choice and to live with justice. At the same time, we believe that if others would not interfere, the nations in the Middle East would be able to solve their own problems. Many of the problems that we witness today and we are used to witnessing in the past have been due to the interference of others. If there are problems in certain places, then we should try to seek the roots in past intervention in past interferences.”
en: You say that people have the right to challenge their government and we saw it here in Iran two years ago in 2009. Do you think that what we’ve seen elsewhere in the Middle East might happen here in Iran too or are you confident that everything is stable here?
MA: “What happened in Iran is not similar to what happens in other countries. A completely free election was held in Iran. It was the most free election in the world. More than 85 per cent of the people took part in the election. 40 million people voted, all those 40 millions are Iranian nationals living together. However, attacking buildings, people and cars is forbidden in all countries. It’s natural that the police and the judiciary would get involved.”
en: Yes there was an election, you’ve said that just now. Their dissatisfaction was with the result and they wanted to express their dissatisfaction with the result and didn’t they have the right to do that and continue to do that?
MA: “Yes according to our laws there are legal ways to express objection and there are legal authorities that see to complaints in the course of elections. We see that there are demonstrations in Europe as well, and we see that the police act very harshly. Those who express their views about the basic European issues are imprisoned. For example,
the issues of the regions in the world today are all based on what happened in the Second World War. Are people allowed to write the truth and the realities of the Second World War? Or can they take any measures against the prevalent systems? I’m sure they can’t, but in Iran people express their objections through legal channels and their complaints are seen to. However some scientists are now in prison for the expressing their historical views.
en: Ok, that’s a completely different line of questioning. You asked earlier on, does the opposition in Europe ever manage to topple a government? Well, just about this time last year in the UK, the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, did topple the government in an election and became leader. So that’s an answer to the question that you put before. If I can move on Mr President…
MA: “They are not the opposition. The opposition were those who were beaten up in the streets of London. The students who were beaten up and had bloody faces. Who listens to their statements in Europe? In Greece, Spain, Italy, who listens to people’s statements or words? There is no one there listening to them. Accept my word.
en: I’m sorry could you clarify that. The situation in Europe is much worse or the situation in Iran in 2009 is much worse?
MA: I’m just trying to explain. That is true. In Europe, the majority of the people are being fined for issues that they had no role in. The people do not determine political policies, economic policies. People don’t have any role in the economic profit-making, but they’re paying the price for it. When they object, they are beaten up, this is really bad. The people in Europe did not break telephone boxes, they just made very simple objections. I think that we should try to find the root of the problem and solve it.
en: It’s true what you say, there are a lot of people paying the price for the faults of others in Europe and the United States. I wonder if the same could be said for the people of Iran who are paying the price in their ordinary everyday lives for the imposition of sanctions on Iran which were made last year? The trade embargo, the distant foreign relations that you have with many countries outside Iran? I’m not saying all, but many. Isn’t it the ordinary people of Iran who are paying the price here in their ordinary everyday lives?
MA” Ahmadinejad: Yes, that’s the true. The Iranian people are paying the price for the erroneous policies of European leaders.
en: Not you Mr President?
MA: “These are the erroneous policies of the European leaders. We haven’t done anything wrong. It’s been 30 years now that some European leaders have been against us. Why are they truly against us? Is it because we’re free? Because we have democracy? Because we have ousted one their European friends – the former Shah? Because we are against some of the expansionist policies of some European countries? Take a look at Afghanistan and Iraq – what were their faults? I think that the policy pursued by some of the European leaders has caused problems for some European nations, as well as other nations.
en: Domestically, what’s your position now for the second half of your second term as president? Are you in a strong position here in Iran?
MA: “We’re doing our duty. We’re using every minute to serve the people.”
en: “There’s a gap growing though, isn’t there, between yourself and the parliament? It’s being seen from outside Iran. There’s a gap growing between yourself and the Supreme Leader. Does this weaken your position?
MA: “I think in a free society such things happen. There should always be discussions between parliament and the government. Is it bad to have a free government and a free parliament? The position of the leader is also clear in Iran. There are no differences. We’re a free siociety in which everyone can express his or her views. There’s no problem there. Do you realise that the parliament voted for four new ministers today? And they were all voted for by high numbers, so there is freedom in this country.
en: Is there freedom for Mirhossein Moussavi who is under house arrest? Is there freedom for Mehdi Karoubi who’s under house arrest? Do they have the freedom to express their opposition? It’s evident that they are opposed to you, but do they have the fredom to do that from their prison cell or their guarded house?
MA: “There are prisoners in all countries. Are there no prisoners in the UK?”
en: Yes Mr President, but I’m talking about the prisons and jails in this country and the ones where Mr Moussavi and Mr Karoubi are staying.
MA: “There are prisons everywhere. There are problems with the judiciary. The juduciary in Iran is independent. I don’t have the right to interfere in what judges decide. There are certain laws according to which people can interact with the judiciary. If you’re asking my personal view, I wish and I hope that there will be not even one single prisoner in the world.
en: Including here in Iran ?
MA: “In all parts of the world. In Abu Ghraib. In all hidden the prisons in Europe.”
en: What will you do Mr President, what efforts will you make, to make sure that wish that you desire for begins here in Iran with people who are in prison simply for expressing their views, which can be done in any democratic country in the world?
MA: “Nobody is in prison just for expressing their views. Under our law people are allowed to express their views. You may stay in Iran for one week and read the newspapers. The most radical criticism against the president can be seen and read in the newspapers. There are various poeple who criticise the president, without any fear. So freedom is at its highest level in Iran. I don’t want to say that we are at the ideal point, but we are much better than many other European countries. There are some common problems which can be seen all around the world. No one can claim that they’re at the most ideal point when it comes to justice. Injustice is a general issue around the world. We’re among the best in terms of justice.
en: Are you prepared to extend the same hand of friendship in the near future to the United States – a country with whom you’ve had no proper diplomatic relationship for 30 years? Also, let’s not forget a country which is the biggest economy in the world and which could well benefit the state of Iran. Is there any chance you’re going to extend the hand of friendship there any time soon?
MA: “We believe that there should be friendly relationships at the international level and that’s the basic principle. But the Americans and their administration is confused. It doesn’t know what to do. It doesn’t follow clear policies. They stopped their relationship with us. The Americans thought that if they stopped their relationship with Iran we would be destroyed. 31 years have passed since then and we’re still sitting here.”
en: With respect Mr President, with regard to the nuclear issue, which worries not only the United States, when you say one thing and appear to do something different, it doesn’t exactly engender the conditions for anybody to become more friendly and extend that hand of peace.
MA: Why? What have we done wrong?
en: Well specifically in terms of the nuclear program, you say – and I have no reason to disbelieve you….
MA: “Is nuclear activity forbidden?”
en: I’m not even saying they’re prohibited. Let me explain. Your stated aim is that your nuclear program is for peaceful means, to produce electricity and energy, and I challenge anybody to argue with that as a peaceful goal. However, there is the belief among scientists in the West, outside Iran, that you are in fact enriching uranium to such a level – 20 per cent specifically – that there’s no connection at all with peaceful production of energy for the use of a peaceful people. So what we have is that, on one hand, you are saying something in public, that you want to use it for peaceful means. On the other hand, you appear to be doing something that only has one objective, and that is to work towards a bomb.
MA: “You ask a very good question. I just felt you were very sincere in your question. Allow me to explain. Firstly, those who claim that we are moving towards military activities are not western scientists, they are western politicians. So if you put this into the context of the western hostility towards Iran…
When we say we don’t have any intention to build a bomb, we’re honest and sincere. We believe that today if someone wants to build a bomb he’s crazy and insane. This is for two reasons. One is that those who have bombs are in graver danger than those who don’t. The bombs that exist in Germany, in Belgium, in Italy and other European countries cause a great threat to all European countries. An atomic bomb is against all humans. Second, the nuclear bomb is useless and ineffective. The Zionist regime has nuclear bombs. At the same time, did it succeed in its war against the Gazans? Did its nuclear bomb give it victory in the 33 Day War against Lebanon? Were the former Soviet Union’s nuclear bombs able to save the Soviet Union from collapse?
Nuclear bombs were used 60 years ago in order to provide an upper hand in political equations, but today they have no value. Thought has value, public opinion has value, human beings have value. We believe that in the future no one will ever be able to use nuclear bombs. We believe that’s the end of the story.”