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Q+A: Susan Wood interviews Seyed Majid Tafreshi

Published: 4:05PM Sunday August 18, 2013 Source: Q+A

Susan Wood interviews Iran's ambassador to New Zealand, Seyed Majid Tafreshi.


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 Director 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 lie based on the international mechanism, and what we agreed on international law really solved 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.


SUSAN But the West says you are enriching uranium for weapons.

SEYED How everybody can claim? We answered all the questions of IAA before. We asked them to put on the table what you need, and we answered all the questions. Iran doesn'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. IAA Board of Governors and also through the Constitution of MPT, the MPT 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.

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 less 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 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 you mentioned before, the right and rule of people to have elections there, not selection by those who are selling weapons to their opponents. Based on the general convention and additional-

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 are happy with their government. Of course, Mr Assad, as you know, he's a director. 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.'

SUSAN Well, speaking of wills of nations, Egypt. You have condemned the Egyptian military for the crackdown on President Morsi supporters. Is 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.


SUSAN 2009. After the last election. '11 and '12. You cracked down on your people, dissidents there, 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 be president. Why? I maybe didn't even, myself, vote for the previous president of Iran, but I'm ambassador here. It's not important to who? 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.


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. We need to have nuclear-weapon-free zones in our region. We need to bring back all those who come back out of the MPT Treaty. We need to oblige and ask even Israel to come to MPT 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 cooperation, especially in the culture. Hopefully, in 2014, we will have three months 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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