TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that his country is seeking fair and balanced relations with all the world countries, including the US, based on mutual respect.
“I have said many times that we would like to have good relations with everyone, including the United States. But these relations must be based on justice, fairness and mutual respect,” Ahmadinejad said in an interview with the New York Times on the sidelines of his attendance at the 63rd UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
Ahmadinejad also said his country is ready to consider a proposal by the US to open an interest section in Tehran. “I have announced before that we will look at the proposal with a positive frame of mind.”
The Following is an excerpt of the interview:
The New York Times: There have been some questions asked in the Majlis (the Iranian parliament) and elsewhere about where the oil revenue of about $120 billion dollars has been spent?
Ahmadinejad: In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate. I have never heard that question asked from us …. Perhaps you are reading articles by some groups critical of the government in Iran. According to Iranian law all the revenue that Iran receives should be held by the public treasury. All expenditures must be approved by the parliament and the parliament monitors expenditures and they prepare very clear reports which are also published annually. So this is the legal process.
NYT: The other economic point is the question of gasoline. We know that Iran is one of the largest oil-producing countries in the world, and yet it imports 40 percent of its gasoline. That is another thing that people get upset about. Why is it so high, and why don’t you invest more money in refineries, for example?
President Ahmadinejad: Are people really angry over this?
NYT: Yes, occasionally they riot and burn gas stations.
Ahmadinejad: That is not the reason why they put those on fire. We are actually about to build seven additional refineries. Of course gasoline is used at very high rates in Iran because it is extremely cheap. The government pays a lot of money to afford that.
NYT: On another subject, you are a Persian; you are not an Arab. Your country has never directly at least fought a war with Israel, and yet you seem obsessed by the Jews. Why?
Ahmadinejad: We have nothing to do with their business at all. Jewish people live in Iran; they have lived there historically. They have a representative in our Parliament. Although there are only 20,000 people, they still have one representative in Parliament. So the Jewish people are treated just like everyone else, like the Christians and the Muslims and the Zoroastrians. They are respected. Everyone is respected.
The question is really over Zionism. Zionism is not Judaism. It is a political party. It is a very secretive political party, which is the root cause of insecurity and wars. For 60 years in our region people have been killed, they have been threatened for 60 years, they have been aggressed upon for 60 years.
NYT: Can we ask about relations with the US government, and in particular whether under a new US administration there would be any possibility of a grand bargain?
Ahmadinejad: I have said many times that we would like to have good relations with everyone, including the United States. But these relations must be based on justice, fairness and mutual respect..
NYT: The Bush administration is considering a proposal to open an interests section in Tehran. Is this something that you could agree to?
Ahmadinejad: I have announced before that we will look at the proposal with a positive frame of mind.
NYT: Have they discussed it with you in any way?
Ahmadinejad: There has been no official request made.
NYT: You talk about fixing relations with the United States. At the core of that disrupted relationship is the nuclear question. India, Pakistan, North Korea, they all have nuclear programs, they have all made accommodations with the United States in some way and they have benefited from it. So why don’t you just suspend enrichment, you don’t have to end your program you can just suspend it, you have made a lot of progress, and just take the incentives that the six powers have offered?
Ahmadinejad: Who has invited the United States and its allies to determine how others should live or that others should seek their permission first if they want to do something?
NYT: But there is a United Nations mandate that Iran should stop enrichment?
Ahmadinejad: The United Nations is completely under the pressure of the US administration. Head of the IAEA told me personally that he is under pressure.
NYT: But the Chinese and the Russians, who are allies of yours, have gone along with it?
Ahmadinejad: It doesn’t matter, it has no connection with the relationship that the United States has established with the agency. We believe that behaviors should change. If they don’t, problems won’t get resolved. If the US wants and likes something for itself they should like it for us, too.
Actually the question in our mind is that the US has good relations with countries that have the atomic bomb and bad relations with countries like us who are simply pursuing peaceful nuclear energy. It was one of the biggest blunders of the US government to cease its relations with Iran. I recall vividly that when the US president at the time announced on television that the United States would cease relations with Iran, it seemed that the United States expected that the government of Iran would soon disappear. That did not happen.
NYT: As you know the level of violence is quite a bit down in Iraq. Do you think that is progress or do you think it cannot last?
President Ahmadinejad: We believe that Iraq’s internal problems and issues belong to the Iraqi people. Iraq is a country with a long history. People in Iraq will be able to find a resolution to their problems.