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Amanpour: Iran promises not to 'be nuclear'


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CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour
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Christiane Amanpour

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (CNN) -- Iran confirmed on Monday a report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog group, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Tehran has suspended its uranium enrichment program, a program that the United States says could contribute to the development of nuclear weapons.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi confirmed the news during an interview with CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour in Egypt, where Kharrazi is attending a special international conference focusing on events in Iran's neighbor to the west, Iraq.

AMANPOUR: Today the head of the IAEA is telling us "I think pretty much everything has come to a halt in terms of uranium enrichment in Iran." Can you tell us precisely what step Iran has taken now on this issue?

KHARRAZI: As a matter of fact, since today, the whole enrichment process has been suspended. And this is going to be verified by inspectors of IAEA.

AMANPOUR: Now, it just seems that every time you make these announcements and you take these steps it all sort of, so to speak, blows up again within a few months. The latest is that not only the opposition groups but others have said that Iran has "aggressively produced" a quantity of uranium hexafluoride, which is essential for the enrichment process. Also, that weapons-grade uranium has been purchased and bomb designs from Pakistan.

What is actually going on?

KHARRAZI: As a matter of fact, this was announced and it is not true, that Iran has not enriched uranium yet or has not bought any uranium from outside.

AMANPOUR: So it is now suspended?

KHARRAZI: Yes.

AMANPOUR: And is that an indefinite suspension? What is the plan?

KHARRAZI: The plan is based on the agreement reached between Iran and some of the Europeans, that we started negotiations in three working groups.

AMANPOUR: And what would constitute positive?

KHARRAZI: Positive means that we are arriving to some conclusions. And the commission and the commitments met by the other side is going to be materialized.

AMANPOUR: And what specific commitment are you talking about right now?

KHARRAZI: There are three working groups, and each group is going to evaluate different measures that has to be taken. But the final measure naturally is to come up with a mechanism that would assure Europeans that Iran is not going to divert to nuclear weapons.

AMANPOUR: You know your fiercest critics are in the United States. Your American counterpart, Secretary of State Colin Powell, said just last week that he has been shown intelligence that Iran is "working hard to produce a nuclear-tipped missile," a missile that can take a nuclear warhead.

KHARRAZI: He has better to share this intelligence that he claims with others. Just claiming something is not enough. And the burden to prove is on the shoulder of the person who makes the claims.

AMANPOUR: Are you denying it?

KHARRAZI: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Does it concern you though that similar voices that were heard in the preamble to the Iraq war are saying about Iran that they suspect you have nuclear weapons or you're trying to produce nuclear weapons, and that it needs to be dealt with additional economic sanctions, with military action, or even with regime change?

KHARRAZI: I believe doing on wrong information has not added to the reputation of American administration, but has put it into serious question internationally. I believe there is need of more information. And American administration is in lack of information.

AMANPOUR: So you're just saying that the lack of intelligence on nuclear weapons in Iraq...

KHARRAZI: No, just generally. Iraq is one example. Americans have made many mistakes out of ignorance, out of lack of information, out of wrong information. And Iraqis won't accept that.

AMANPOUR: And are you nonetheless not concerned, though, that there is a very serious movement in the United States that they will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran?

KHARRAZI: No, Iran is not going to be nuclear at all. Iran does not have any plan to produce nuclear weapons. It is determined to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. And nobody can deny the right of Iran to do it.

AMANPOUR: So are you -- what will you do then after three months? Will you start enriching again in order for peaceful purposes? Or what happens? If you are determined to pursuit peaceful...

KHARRAZI: We hope. We hope to arrive to some kind of agreement with the European side that assures them that Iran is not going to divert toward nuclear weapons, but at the same time continue with ... technology for peaceful purposes.

AMANPOUR: Are you planning to have any dialogue here at this meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell?

KHARRAZI: No, it has not been scheduled.

AMANPOUR: So you will not meet him?

KHARRAZI: No.

AMANPOUR: Do you worry or are you concerned or are you prepared for a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities?

KHARRAZI: There are some concerns, but the question is that what happens if there would be such a preemptive action? I don't think it helps anyone, but it creates more crisis and more problems. And we have enough problems in the world. And therefore, I believe that leads to nothing but more crisis.

AMANPOUR: Can you tell me how you plan to bolster, if you like, the level of trust between your country and Western countries, whether it be Europe or -- or the United States? As I say, we've seen these declarations by Iran before, these instances of suddenly last year suspending the uranium enrichment, and then, you know, other things come to the surface. People then again point to the fact that, well, you've been doing this secretly and that secretly. I mean, how are you going to actually bolster the level of trust?

KHARRAZI: To take measures that would create more confidence. And that's what exactly what we are doing. If we have decided to suspend uranium enrichment ... it's just to bring more confidence, nothing else. And we hope that this measure's good and to more confidence. Otherwise it may be not useful.


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