They say the United States has no quarrel with the Islamic nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and if they were to see a change in Iran's behavior in these five areas we could have normal relations. Can you respond specifically to the five problem areas? KHARAZI: They claim that they do not have any quarrel with Iran's Islamic character, but in fact I think the problem is that our system is an independent, new model of living lslamically, governing a state in an Islamic way and doing everything with Islamic values.
Q: You are no doubt aware that Edward Djerejian and Robert Pelletreau [former and current assistant secretaries of state] have made important speeches in the past year saying the United States respects the religion of Islam, has friendly relations with many regimes that have an Islamic character and does not believe that adherence to traditional Islam challenges U. For example, we are accused of the violation of human rights. We don't believe in violating human rights.
In some of these states, women cannot drive. Women in Iran are very active in social and political life. They occupy high ranks in the administration, in the universities and in business. We have women running their own companies. We have women who are full professors at the university. Girls occupy 46 percent of places at the universities. It is true that the government asks them to observe the Islamic dress code, but that has not prohibited them from moving toward high ranks in administration and parliament.
There are nine women, more than in the U. Senate, who actively participate in debates and decision making. In other aspects of human rights as well, you cannot compare the situation in Iran with that in some of these states. But nobody talks about violations of human rights in those states. That is why I believe that the real quarrel is with the nature of this government, this system.
Q: Aside from the status of women, U. It is true that the Bahai faith is not a recognized religion in Iran, but this does not mean that they don't enjoy life and conduct business.
There are cases of Bahai individuals being involved in illegal activities, as some Muslims and Christians have been. If these Bahais have been punished, the propaganda outside says they have been persecuted because they are Bahais. If Bahais or Muslims or Christians or Jews have been punished, it is based on their involvement in conduct against the law. In the case of Kurds and other ethnicities, those not involved in illegal activities enjoy their life, not only in Kurdish areas but also in Tehran and other places. This is so for Turks, Baluchis, Arabs and other ethnicities.
Of course, some Kurds are members of an illegal party and are involved in terrorist activities. They have escaped to Iraq and come in and attack villages. But the Kurdish population abiding by the law, has no problems.
The Kurdish area is developed, and there has been a lot of investment for the prosperity of the population. They have their own books in Kurdish, their own religious ceremonies, schools and universities. Q: How strong is the People's Mojahedin? The State Department in its human-rights report complained about Iran's record, but it also complained about the Mojahedin's operations. The Mojahedin is active in Washington, lobbying Congress, the media and the think tanks, arguing that they are the democratic alternative and trying hard to get the State Department to talk with them before issuing its report.
Even The New York Times has called for this. The important thing is that they do not have support inside Iran because they are terrorists. People remember when they killed more than 1, people on the streets at the beginning of the war with Iraq. They were using sabotage inside the society to gain power. They killed our president, our prime minister and the head of our judiciary. They have confessed all of this in their newspapers. Q: Who was responsible for the bombing in the parliament in ?
The Islamic Republic party was bombed, and 72 people were killed. The same group bombed the prime minister's office, and the president and the prime minister were killed. They don't enjoy any support inside the country because they have been supported all through the years by Saddam Hussein and still are. They are based in Iraqi territory.
Recently, under the advice of some foreign circles, they have created the so-called National Council of Resistance of Iran, but it is all show. They do not even have support in the Iranian community living in the United States. But they have a very sophisticated organization and very powerful public relations. Q: Iran has been charged with carrying out assassinations of regime opponents abroad, for example in Europe.
Eventually they reported that they had found no evidence that Iran is involved in nuclear-weapons programs. The IAEA, the prestigious international organization responsible for this job, has come to Iran and has reported. Q: It is also said that Iran has biological weapons, chemical weapons and missile delivery systems. We are victims of chemical weapons, but we are a signatory to the chemical-weapons convention and have been one of the countries promoting its adoption.
We think all should sign it and abide by it. This is true for biological weapons as well. We are producing missiles, but they are short-range missiles of only a few hundred kilometers. We have no plans for long-range missiles and no technology for producing them. In terms of conventional weapons, if you compare Iran with our neighbors you find that what we have to spend for military expenditures, including arms, is much lower than what our neighbors have spent.
If we take into consideration our large size and population and the fact that Iran's military capacity was nearly destroyed in eight years of war, for defensive purposes we need to buy some arms. But the money we have to spend is very little. In the last few years, we have spent an average of 1.
Saudi Arabia has spent more than 20 percent of GDP. Q: What are your defensive considerations? On the west we have Iraq, which has attacked its neighbors twice. Its military capacity was damaged during the Persian Gulf crisis, but it is still at a high level.
On the east, we have Afghanistan; in the south, the Persian Gulf, we have the presence of foreign troops; in the north, we have republics with their own internal problems-Azerbaijan and Armenia are involved in fighting in Nagorno-Karabagh. On the other side, we have Tajikistan; although it does not have a border with us, it is very close. It is very easy to make the case that we need to keep our military capacity and buy some arms for defensive purposes.
If Americans claim that this military expenditure is to threaten the states in the Persian Gulf, that is a baseless accusation. I think they make this claim to sell more arms to the other states, and so far they have been successful.
The shah ordered six submarines from Germany, which were not delivered because of the revolution. We are fulfilling this capacity to the level of the shah and the level before the war with Iraq-and it is all for purposes of self-defense. Velayati, travels to capitals of Gulf Arab states on diplomatic missions. How do you view the future of Iran's relations with the Gulf Arab states in fields such as oil production and the acquisition of arms?
What kind of security framework do you think is feasible for the region? But we believe that it is the littoral states' responsibility to make arrangements for it. Iran is a major Gulf player; it has the longest coast on the Persian Gulf. Therefore, I don't think that anybody will succeed in imposing a security plan on the region. We have tried our best to convince these southern states of the Persian Gulf that eventually we have to get together and come up with a security plan. But it seems that they are under pressure from outside powers, especially the United States.
I think that in the future they will understand that cooperation with Iran would be in their interest. We are showing patience and prudence, because it takes time. We have been directing our attention toward the north because we think that we can do a lot in terms of economic cooperation with the new republics of the former Soviet Union.
We are doing our best bilaterally or multilaterally in the framework of the Economic Cooperation Organization ECO to help them develop.
We believe that unless they come up with a viable economy they will be considered a threat to our national security. I think if we succeed in developing the ECO between Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and some of these new republics, that would by itself attract the attention of the southern states. In that case, Iran can play a very important role as a bridge between northern and southern states.
Q: There is already trade and investment between Gulf Arab states and Iran. Iran with its railways, gas pipelines and roads can link the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus to the Gulf and to the sea. The same facilities can be used to carry goods from the Gulf to these countries. The Iranian banking system is more developed than that of the new republics and can be used as a channel for financial and economic support. How do you respond to this? For years, Britain occupied these islands, but in they decided to withdraw.
Therefore, the shah sent troops to retake them based on an agreement among the British government, the Iranian government and the emirate of Sharjah. The shah accepted the sovereignty of Bahrain in return for the withdrawal of the British government from the islands. We have an agreement signed in spelling out how the island of Abu Musa is to be governed by Iran and Shar jab.
The security of the island has been maintained by Iranians since But we found out that people who are not from Sharjah but from other nations had come to the island. We were suspicious that they were involved in spying or other illegal activities, and therefore we had to ask them to show their identification. Officials of the UAE were not happy with these restrictions, which were imposed just for the sake of the security of the island.