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Cablegate: Iranian Depformin Araghchi Defends Nuclear Program

VZCZCXRO4887
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHSA #2395/01 1871050
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061050Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0666
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0075
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0527
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1231
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1108
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 0453
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 002395

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PARM KNNP IR IZ IS SF
SUBJECT: IRANIAN DEPFORMIN ARAGHCHI DEFENDS NUCLEAR PROGRAM
AT UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Speaking July 4 at the University of
Pretoria, Iranian DepForMin Araghchi argued that Iran's
nuclear program is peaceful, but stressed that Tehran will
not give up its NPT right to enrich uranium. Iran remains
open to "creative" ideas on building confidence about the
peaceful nature of its program, such as a joint venture on
enrichment. Iran was "a little disappointed" by South
Africa's UNSC vote for sanctions on Iran. Araghchi said Iran
was willing to meet with the United States again on Iraq to
"help the Iraqi government and people." During his trip to
South Africa, Araghchi reportedly met SAG DepForMin Aziz
Pahad, likely to lobby for support in the UNSC. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Dr. Abbas Araghchi, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister
for Legal and International Affairs, addressed a group of
approximately 50 diplomats, academics, and journalists at the
University of Pretoria on July 4. The U.K.-educated Araghchi
spoke in English for approximately one hour. Hussein
Solomon, Director of the Centre for International Political
Studies (CiPS), told PolOff that the Iranians requested the
public forum on short notice, and that Araghchi had met with
South African DepForMin Aziz Pahad. Araghchi's meeting with
Pahad was not publicly announced by the South African
Government. Araghchi also attended part of the July 2-6
meeting of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization,
held in Cape Town.

--------------------------
Defense of Nuclear Program
--------------------------

3. (U) Araghchi devoted most of his remarks to "clarifying"
the purpose of the Iranian nuclear program, repeating at
length the standard Iranian talking points.

-- The Iranian nuclear program has a long history, stretching
back to the 1957 U.S.-Iranian agreement to develop nuclear
energy. Only after the revolution did the West begin to
express concerns about Iran's intentions.

-- Iran needs nuclear energy for its long-term development.
Its oil and gas reserves will decline over time. Iran wants
to be "independent" in its nuclear energy program, so as to
not rely on other countries. This encompasses all stages of
production, including enrichment.

-- Iran remains committed to the NPT and IAEA safeguards
agreements. Because of its "inexperience," Iran failed at
times to report certain issues to the IAEA, but these have
all been "corrected." The IAEA has confirmed that Iran has
"corrected all failings." The Agency has not been able to
say there are no "undeclared" nuclear activities, but this
will take time "since Iran is a big country;" it took 40
years to certify Japan.

-- Iran will never give up its right under the NPT to enrich
uranium for peaceful purposes. Tehran was willing to
negotiate with the E-3 to "prove" its peaceful intent, but
instead learned a "bitter lesson" from the Europeans who,
when asking Iran to suspend its enrichment activities,
instead meant cessation. The E-3 package of proposals were
full of "empty promises," some even "ridiculous" and
"insulting," such as providing better Internet to Iran.

-- The imposition of UNSC sanctions on Iran is "not
surprising." The Iranian people are "willing to pay the
price" to establish their right to develop a peaceful nuclear
program.

-- Iran is willing to explore "creative" and "constructive"
ideas to provide assurances about the peaceful nature of its
nuclear program. Araghchi suggested, for example, that Iran
would be willing to consider a joint venture on its
enrichment activities (NFI), as long as the activities take
place on Iranian soil. Tehran is open to suggestions on
"building confidence" between the West and Iran.

---------------------------------------
Disappointed by South African UNSC Vote
---------------------------------------


PRETORIA 00002395 002 OF 002


4. (U) Araghchi said Tehran was "a little disappointed" by
the South African support for the UNSC resolution imposing
sanctions on Iran. They appreciated Pretoria's efforts to
amend the resolution and noted that many of South Africa's
amendments had been accepted. Araghchi added that overall
relations between South Africa and Iran were "good," and they
appreciated Pretoria's advice on "how to deal with the
constant pressure."

--------------------------------
Ahmadi-Nejad's Comments on Israel
--------------------------------

5. (U) Asked about President Ahmadi-Nejad's call for the end
of the state of Israel, Araghchi argued that Iranian policy
has been misunderstood. Tehran supports a "one-state
solution" for all the people of "Palestine." They do not
believe a two state solution will work. If all the
inhabitants of "Palestine" vote for a system of government
that results in the end of the "Zionist regime," that is
"their problem, not ours." Iran has the right to present its
formula for peace in the Middle East, like any other
government. He later added that the existence of the Israeli
nuclear program exposes the "double standard" of the West and
represents the real threat to the region.

----------------------------------
Willing to Meet U.S. Again on Iraq
----------------------------------

6. (U) On Iraq, Araghchi said Iran was willing to hold
another round of talks with the United States to "help the
Iraqi people and government." He said the United States is
in a "desperate position" and urged Washington to announce an
"exit plan." Araghchi called for "strengthening" of the
Iraqi political structures, including PM Maliki, since there
is no alternative "for the moment." The policy and army
should also be supported and given more authority independent
of the United States military.

-------
Comment
-------

7. (SBU) As Araghchi frankly admitted, the Iranians were no
doubt disappointed by South Africa's UNSC vote in favor of
sanctions. Araghchi likely took advantage of his presence in
South Africa for the Cape Town legal conference to lobby
DepForMin Pahad on future UNSC action. Araghchi's public
presentation to press, diplomats, and academics -- unusual
for high-level Iranian visitors -- suggests that Iran may be
attempting to use public diplomacy to influence SAG policy on
the Iranian nuclear question.
Bost

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