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Susan Wood Interviews Iranian Ambassador to NZ

Sunday 18 August, 2013
Susan Wood Interviews Seyed Majid Tafreshi, Iranian Ambassador to NZ.
Q+A, 11-midday Sundays on TV ONE and one hour later on TV ONE plus 1. Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz   
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Iran’s ambassador to NZ, Seyed Majid Tafreshi, joins me now, and a very good morning to you.
SEYED MAJID TAFRESHI - Iranian Ambassador to NZ
                        Good morning.
SUSAN           So, your new president, he is seen as much more moderate than your former president. What changes are we likely to see in Iran?
SEYED           As Dr Rohani mentioned, a big, open gate is now ready for those who claim are going to follow peace and security in our region. And definitely Iran, as before, of course, is following all peaceful means of settling any dispute between us or a few countries in the West, mainly the United States of America. Mr Rohani mentioned, as he was the chief negotiator of our nuclear issue, he is always the optimist, and he will rely based on the international mechanism, and what we agreed on international law really solve this issue and, of course, facilitate lots of benefits for our nation that are now en route there.
SUSAN           Sure, because you are struggling under sanctions at the moment, your people are.
SEYED           Yes.
SUSAN           But the West says you are enriching uranium for weapons.
SEYED           How everybody can claim? We answered all the questions of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) before. We asked them to put on the table what you need, and we answered all the questions. Iran don’t need-
SUSAN           But the West is not buying that argument. They are still saying it’s nuclear weapons here.
SEYED           I don’t know what you mean about the West. I think the main problem is the United States, that maybe it’s looking to keep the instability in our region to be able to continue his hegemonic powers in our region. Otherwise, in this part of the world, neighbours are happy together, and we believe nuclear weapons cannot survive anybody. Nobody can survive.
SUSAN           But the reality is you have to convince the West. You want to convince them to lift those sanctions because they’re hurting your middle class,
your people, aren’t they?
SEYED           We are ready to answer any questions based on understandable mechanism. Enrichment of uranium is not to solely making weapons. IAEA Board of Governors and also through the Constitution of NPT (Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty), the NPT Treaty, you have rights to enrich on any person you want. You have an inspection system, and you can follow any warrior through the inspection system, that over 30 months we voluntarily continued 93 plus additional protocols.
SUSAN           You say you want peace in your region, but, of course, your former president talked about ‘wiping the Zionist nation off the map’, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, says, ‘The president may have changed, but the regime’s intentions have not.’ Is that the case?
SEYED           How you can wipe out somewhere that you didn’t recognise it yet? And our leader also mentioned, I mean, recognised the right of people there. He mentioned that unless those evacuated by force from their own motherland come back and have a constitution, have a new rule, and also you have self-determination. He didn’t say, ‘Ok, you come back, and you come back to Europe.’ Then already the rights of those who are living here (are) recognised by us. We are not going to wipe out anybody, because with wiping out, you cannot bring peace and security in your region.
SUSAN           And yet you’re backing the Syrian regime.
SEYED           Regime? What is the meaning of regime? We cannot easily change the name of the president’s regime and try to follow a regime change mechanism that is under international law. President Assad is now supported by his own people. The best solution is, as we mentioned before, the right and the will of people to have elections there, not selection by those who are selling weapons to their opponents. Based on the Geneva convention and additional protocols you don’t need to do that-
SUSAN           So when have there been free and fair elections in Syria?
SEYED           He is ready for 2014 to have elections. Dispute settlement is not necessarily selling weapons to opponents. You have lots of problems in the Pacific. Nobody have rights to increase the tension here. Everybody should support peaceful settlement. Syria-
SUSAN           So you’re saying it’s the outside that’s increasing the tensions in Syria? It’s not coming from the internal?
SEYED           Yes, of course. In Syria, the people were happy with their government. Of course, Mr Assad, as you know, he’s a doctor. He’s not even an army man. He mentioned,  ‘If the people don’t want me, I’m ready to go.’ But, anyway, we did a lot for Syria, and I just prepared this small thing that what we did in last two years. We had two international seminars in Iran. We even didn’t invite anybody from the government or the opponents. We invited everybody from the outside and asked them. 30 countries participated. We asked them, ‘We need to respect the sovereignty of the state, and also beside that, follow any mechanism for dictating the rule of a nation.’ It’s not necessarily-
SUSAN           Well, speaking of wills of nations, Egypt. You have condemned the Egyptian military for the crackdown on President Morsi supporters. Isn’t that hypocritical? I mean, you crack down on your own people in 2009, 2011, 2012.
SEYED           For what? Crackdown of?
SUSAN           Yeah, the dissidents, you shut them down.
SEYED           When?
SUSAN           2009. After the last election. ’11 and ’12. You cracked down on your people, dissidents there you crack down on, but you’re saying the Egyptians are doing the wrong thing.
SEYED           No, no. In Iran, what happened after the election was again not obeying of the rule. All- I’m asking you, all those who nominate-
SUSAN           Not obeying the rules, cracking down; pretty similar thing.
SEYED           All those who nominate coming to be the president, the capability already approved by the council. The Guardian Council approved as a capable president. There is no doubt if somebody be able to get enough votes can come and can be president. Why? I maybe didn’t even, myself, vote for the previous president of Iran, but I’m ambassador here of him. It’s not important (who) to vote for? It’s important you follow the criteria. Even those who claim it was some forge before now claim we were not right, and it was a big mistake.
SUSAN           NZ and Iran - very far apart.
SEYED           Yeah.
SUSAN           What impact do we have on each other as nations?
SEYED           Of course, NZ for us is an important country in the Pacific. NZ, with the power of logic, can play much role in the international community, and you are going to join the Security Council, and you are going to represent the international community, and Iran is also some part of that. One of the most important part of the ?. We need to have nuclear-weapon-free zones in our region. We need to bring back all those who come back out of the NPT Treaty. We need to oblige and ask even Israel to come to NPT and other countries. NZ would fare- I mean, foreign policy can help a lot, and, of course, we have, for the last four decades, lots of cooperation, mainly in the economy. We are the main customer of your butter, your dairy. Of course, embargoes really affects our relation, and your exporters have a little bit of problem for getting their money, but we are doing our best in the embassy to facilitate all we can do for both sides to continue this corridor of cooperation, especially in the culture that hopefully, in 2014, we will have three months in the name of the Glorious Treasures of Persia in Te Papa, hopefully.
SUSAN           Very good to speak to you this morning. Thank you, ambassador.
SEYED           Thank you, thank you.


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