English translation of an interview with Radio France Internationale, 3th May 2006

Ardeshir Zahedi: Maintenance of Nuclear Technology is Iran's
Inalienable Right

Fars News Agency: In and interview with Radio France Internationale, "Ardeshir Zahedi", who serverd as Iraninan Minister of Foreign Affairs under the Shah between the years 1966-73 and who had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty on behalf of his country in 1968, emphasized on the inalienable right of Iran to maintain nuclear technology."

In responding to a question about when Iran first became interested in initiating a nuclear program, Zahedi said: " This idea goes back to 1950s, when Iran {for the first time] became interested in using nuclear energy, although at the time, it was only limited to university research programs." The Shah made an official visit to India in 1956", Zahedi said in this regard, "and during this trip, in which I was also present, the Indian officials invited the Shah to pay a visit to the nuclear infrastructure of this county. This trip encouraged the Shah to develop a peaceful nuclear technology in Iran." "a few years later", Zahedi added, "I accompanied the Shah in his visit to the German nuclear facilities and subsequently, we started negotiations over [a nuclear] cooperation with this country. At the same period, we also visited the Russian nuclear facilities and program."

About the real purpose of Iran having such a program at that time, Zahedi said: "Iran's goal was to find an alternative source of energy for oil. The Shah believed that with the large exploitation of petroleum, Iran would one day have to purchase oil for its own needs. Therefore, he intended to use peaceful nuclear technology for the purpose of supplying energy while saving oil for producing more valuable goods and products." "The purpose of Iran's nuclear program was not military", Zahedi insisted, "Nevertheless, it is very natural that when the peaceful nuclear technology is achieved, the military phase would also follow. If a country maintains the basic knowledge and skill of this technology, it will subsequently develop and expand it. However, this is a long and slow process, but it can finally be fulfilled by persistence." Zahedi argues that there should no longer be any problem if the nuclear energy is achieved [by Iran] under an international supervision.

Criticizing the existing "double standards" as "unjust", Zahedi pointed as examples to Israel, Pakistan, and India that although none of them has signed the NPT, they are now amongst nuclear powers.

Zahedi added in another part of this interview "since I positively believe that having access to this energy is the unarguable right of Iran, I think that the only solution for this issue is dialogue and negotiation."

In responding to a question that if nuclear technology could so easily be expanded into a military phase, then whether the Western countries should wait until Iran would finally maintain nuclear weapons and whether it is possible to understand their concern in this regard, Zahedi said: "despite the fact that India and Pakistan have never joined the NPT, they have signed several [nuclear] cooperation agreements with the Western countries while they have always been hostile to each other. Under these circumstances, it is surprising that the United States announces Iran's nuclear program dangerous." He further added "in the 1970s, two American officials told me that the U.S. was well aware of Pakistan's military nuclear program. In fact, they were implying that Iran could also start the same program."

About the current crisis in Iran's relationship with the international community and whether Iran, by following its nuclear program, has changed the policies of the international community toward itself, the former Iranian minister of Foreign Affairs said: "When a nuclear race began among the big industrialized countries, the U.S., Germany, France, Britain, and … were all trying to cooperate with Iran on that issue and at the same time, they were stopping us. In fact, each of them liked to prevent the others from signing contracts with us. There was a competition between them and therefore, they were all offering their own suggestions while undermining the other's plan by arguing about their shortcomings. But this situation changed dramatically with taking place of the Islamic Revolution and they started to use a harsh rhetoric against the current regime."

Concerning the consequences of Iran's [possible] withdrawal from NPT, Zahedi said: "in diplomacy and international relations, one should refrain from speaking indiscriminately and without contemplation. Dialogue, negotiations and good will constructs the cornerstone of diplomacy. Nonetheless, nothing can prevent Iran from abandoning this Treaty because those countries which have never signed the Treaty are continuing their nuclear program quite freely."

In regard to a military intervention in Iran and whether or not he believed in the effectiveness of such an intervention, Zahedi said: "military attack on Iran will only deteriorate the situation and once again it will be the Iranian people who would pay the high price of the war. Besides, in such a condition, one can say that an aggression has taken place against another country and this will be in violations of international law." He further added "Iran's geopolitical landscape is not similar to that of Iraq or Afghanistan and therefore, any war against Iran would end up destabilizing the situation in Middle East and weakening the peace in the region as well as in the whole Asia."

Zahedi was asked at the end of this interview whether this is the nature of the Islamic Republic that challenges the West, and whether the international community would threat Iran differently should a regime changes happens or if there were a more democratic government in Tehran. He responded "First I must say that any change in the regime should be accomplished by Iranian people themselves, whether the Iranians inside the country or those living abroad. Besides, if the regime is overthrown through a foreign military invasion, the situation will even become worse than today because Iranian people, whether pro or anti [the Islamic] government would never put up with foreign military interventions [in their country]. On the other hand, I am not sure that even with the regime change the international community would allow Iran to use nuclear technology. Therefore, I think that , in this specific case, the Western countries are really being hypocritical and deceitful."