Saeed Jalili: The most important issue that can be pursued in the next four years [if I am elected as the next president of Iran] is a discourse [agenda] to promote progress and justice and resistance. This will be largely based on my experience [as the top Iranian nuclear negotiator]. My understanding is that the more we rely on our religious and internal principles the more we can create that capacity to pursue the path of progress and the more we can resist [the demands of the international community].
Asked if ‘resistance’ meant no compromise on the nuclear dossier:
What matters today is to defend the rights of the Iranian nation in various areas that should not be violated by others. The more we defend these rights, the more progress we can make.
Asked if Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, supports his candidacy:
No. The supreme leader is in the position that others are under his authority. Some [political] currents and people [have backed me] and they should talk about their support themselves. I considered the election as a duty and had to look into various aspects of it, [which is why the candidacy was announced quietly and at the last minute].
Asked if the candidacies of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a conservative former president, and Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, an ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, encouraged him to run:
Usually when a candidate decides to run he looks at other candidates. If there is a more qualified candidate, you do not join [the race]. But if you feel that it is necessary for you to run then you go ahead. The decision to run cannot be seen separately from [the qualifications] of other candidates.
Asked if Iran’s nuclear policies would change if Mr Rafsanjani were to win the election:
Our approach [to our nuclear ambitions] has been totally defensible and logical and can lead to and speed up progress. Naturally, if other [policies] are presented, we can seriously criticise them and seriously defend the current approach. But we need to see what [Mr Rafsanjani’s policy] will be.
Asked if other hardliners such as Ali-Akbar Velayati, former foreign minister, and Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, will withdraw to help his chances:
We have not talked yet, but what can be taken into consideration is the unity of discourse [ie our common agendas] and [political] currents.
Asked about his lack of experience in managing the economy at a time of international sanctions:
At least over the past few years when I have been carefully following the effects of sanctions, I see that they can be easily bypassed and turned into opportunities.
On Iran-US relations and the potential for direct talks:
It is not true [that Iran has to have direct negotiations with the US to find a solution to the nuclear stalemate]. The US has seriously obstructed the goals and wishes of the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation, which cannot be denied. The US supported the dictatorial rule of the [ousted] Shah [Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi] when the Iranian nation did not want him. And after the revolution, the US supported Saddam [Hussein, Iraq’s ousted president]. The Iranian nation’s behaviour over the past 34 years shows that the US cannot do whatever it wants. The US seriously opposed Iran’s nuclear programme when they thought they had no rival in the world. But then they said they were seeking international consensus, but that did not succeed, either. Then again they went back to unilateral moves. This shows the US’s confusion.
We have never waited to see what US conditions for [direct] talks are. The problem is America’s behaviour. It has to change. [When the supreme leader in March said he would authorise direct talks], he said he was not optimistic. The main problem is that the US is not logical.
On the country’s nuclear programme and negotiations with the world powers:
We do not want anything beyond [Iran’s rights under] the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty]. We naturally expect to enjoy our rights under the NPT. The main question is why they [the major powers] do not recognise Iran’s right to uranium enrichment under the NPT. Those who claim they respect the NPT, should respect this right of the Iranian nation . . . We first wrote to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] that we needed 20 per cent enriched uranium for peaceful and medical purposes. But we were not provided with it. Those who have focused on the issue of uranium enriched to 20 per cent [purity] should be accountable today and answer why they refused to give it to us when we told them we did not want to produce it and asked them to sell it to us for peaceful purposes.
Asked if Iran would agree to demands to ship out its stocks of uranium enriched to 20 per cent:
We have gone into extensive details about this in the talks [with major powers]. We have said that what has been produced is for our domestic and pharmaceutical needs. They see that the fuel is [produced] under the supervision of IAEA inspectors in Fordow and Natanz [enrichment facilities] and they see this is used for peaceful purposes. We have said this is for our needs. We have not produced it to be sent abroad but to meet the medical needs of people.
Asked if Iran was being careful not to cross Israel’s “red line” of producing 240kg of more of highly enriched uranium:
We do not give any credibility to Israel [as a state] or its threats. Our red line is the NPT regulations.
Asked about the US and Russian initiative to hold an international conference on Syria next month:
From the start Iran has said that the solution to the Syrian crisis is not military but political. The US adopted the wrong approach and supported terrorists to pursue its goals. But our views have been in common with [those of] Russia. If the US has come to the conclusion that their approach was wrong, then they should say so to the world. We welcome any suggestion that national dialogue take place in Syria.
Asked whether Iran would mind if it were not invited to the conference:
It is not a problem [if Iran is not invited]. What matters to us is the end of military confrontation in Syria and the beginning of a political process.
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