In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 in Tehran Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country has "a right" to the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent. But he insisted that it was not a step toward producing a bomb.
In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 in the Iranian capital of Tehran on Wednesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran has “a right” to the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, but he maintained that it has “nothing to do with producing a bomb”.
Ahmadinejad’s remarks came as long-stalled negotiations between Tehran and six world powers on Iran’s nuclear program have been recently revived, with the countries agreeing to talks in Moscow in June after discussions last week in Baghdad.
But speaking to FRANCE 24 in Farsi through translators on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad said he did not expect talks in Moscow to yield any major breakthroughs.
"We are not expecting miracles at the next nuclear meeting in Moscow," he told FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman.
While Ahmadinejad maintained that Iran has a right to 20 percent uranium enrichment, he also hinted that Iran could be open to stopping the 20 percent enrichment if world powers offered significant concessions.
"If others do not wish for us to fully benefit from this right, they need to explain to us why. And also they have to say what they are willing to give to the Iranian people in exchange," he said. But he declined to provide details of any concessions that might be acceptable to his government.
Ahmadinejad condemns Houla massacre
In a half-hour interview with FRANCE 24, Ahmadinejad also discussed the situation in Syria, particularly last week’s massacre in the Syrian town of Houla.
Ahmadinejad discusses his government's response to the Syrian revolt.
Ahmadinejad condemned the massacre and said the perpetrators must be brought to justice. But he categorically denied that his government was equipping the Syrian regime.
“We are strongly aware and disappointed about it,” said Ahmadinejad, referring the massacre in which 108 people – mostly women and children – were killed. “The people responsible for these massacres must be punished and sanctioned. I think the committees set up to investigate this will get to the truth,” he said.
The Syrian government has launched an inquiry commission into the incident. But it has not allowed a UN human rights investigation team led by Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro into the country.
But when asked about whether his government was equipping Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, he denied the allegation, maintaining that Iran has “perfectly normal relations” with Syria “as with other countries. We are in favour of protecting the rights of the people.”
Iran has supported former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan for Syria, calling it the “best solution in this situation”.
But in his interview with FRANCE 24, Ahmadinejad repeatedly cited "foreign interference” in the region and questioned how Western governments view the situation in Syria.
“There are commissions set up whose job it is to examine the situation. It seems unbelievable to me that a government can kill its own people,” he said.
Amid ongoing international efforts to stop the bloodshed in Syria, western governments have accused Iran, a Shiite powerhouse, of providing military support to Assad, who hails from the minority Shiite Alawite community. Iranian officials have however maintained that Iran is only providing moral support to Syria.