October 10, 2008
Iran President Says UN Resolution “Desperate Lashing Out of Hegemonic Powers”
The Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad has dismissed the fourth UN Security Council resolution against Iran as an act of desperation. Speaking in a live interview with the Iranian television Ahmadinezhad said that the recent UN resolution against Iran was a "desperate lashing out of hegemonic powers" adding that "All they are doing now is to preserve the existing structures." Commenting on Iran-US relations he said that resuming diplomatic relations with the US will not help Iran solve its economic problems. He said: "They [the US] had better put their own affairs in order.... It has become clear now that they cannot save themselves." On the domestic front, he vowed to issue directives to publicly name those who have been involved in misappropriations should they not pay back the funds as requested by the government. The following is the full text of the interview chaired by Morteza Heydari and Morad Enadi, both anchors for the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, broadcast live by Iranian TV's channel one at 1802 gmt on 7 October 2008; subheading inserted editorially.
[Heydari] In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate. Good evening to your, dear compatriots, the honourable viewers [of television] and dear listeners [of the radio. I hope that you have had a good day. Once again, we are honoured to be here and serving you, our dear compatriots. As you are aware and have definitely heard in the news, via the IRIB and other media, this evening we have come to the presidential building [palace] in order to conduct a live, sincere and explicit interview with the president. If you remember, we had a similar interview with the president about three months ago. During that interview, he discussed various internal and international issues. After that interview, we secured a promise to meet him again, in a not too distant future, so as to discuss similar issues. We are grateful to God for granting us this opportunity again. And this evening, my very good colleague, Mr Enadi, and I are with the president and the service of you, our dear viewers and listeners. Good evening Mr President!
[Ahmadinezhad] Good evening to you too!
[Enadi] In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate. I also would like to extend my greetings to you, our dear viewers and listeners of the Iranian Radio. We hope to be able to present a good programme during our interview with the president. We hope to be able to raise the questions and demands of you, our dear people; and to hear Mr President's answers. I also would like to thanks His Excellency Dr Ahmadinezhad, the Honourable President, for his close cooperation with the media and for giving us this opportunity again so as to conduct an explicit and transparent interview with him. Good evening Dr Ahmadinezhad!
[Ahmadinezhad] Good evening; and I wish you success!
[Enadi] With your permission, Mr Heydari, I would like to mask the first question. Mr Ahmadinezhad! My first question is this: Our most recent event, which was very important, was your fourth visit to New York in order to attend the UN General Assembly. What distinguished your first visit from your previous visits to the UN headquarters? And, in the sphere of diplomacy, what were the gains of your visit for the Islamic Republic of Iran?
[Ahmadinezhad] In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate. O God! We beseech you to hasten the lofty advent of your heir [the Hidden Imam of Shi'is]. O God! Present him with good health and your assistance; and grant us the honour of being his best companions to testify before him.
First of all, permit me to offer my greetings to the nation. I must send my particular warm regards to our great nation first. I also would like to congratulate the nation for its spiritual success in the holy month of Ramadan. This great divine month came and went with all its blessings. I am happy and grateful to God for the fact that the Iranian nation appreciated this month. The younger generation, in particular, benefited greatly. The country's atmosphere was full of spirituality, worship and praise of God. This is the most valuable asset a human being needs in order to conduct a prosperous life style. I pray to God to continue the flow of this spirituality in our lives, whose outcome will be decency, friendship, compassion and fraternity. God willing the country's atmosphere will remain full of such spiritual values.
However, in reply to your question, I must say that it was an important question. After all, a nation requires some tools so as to secure a dignified lifestyle. This is particularly true in the case of the Iranian nation, which is a nation with aspiration and culture. The Iranian nation is not a passive and unreceptive nation. This nation has got something to tell to the rest of the world.
The essential requirement of this nation for a dignified life and progress is to be active in all arenas, both at home and at the international forums abroad. This is particularly important under the existing global circumstances today, whereby the lives of all nations are almost intertwined with one another. That is, everyone is affected by others and can influence others. No-one can close [his country's gates] and say: "I am going to conduct my own life within these borders." Basically [media] waves penetrate the people's homes.
Opportunities of UNGA
[Ahmadinezhad, continues] Not just the [media] waves, but there are economic ties and [political] relations. Basically, it is impossible to live without maintaining such ties. And this is something positive and creates an excellent opportunity. This is because mankind has been created to live in a society. And many of mankind's values and talents, or rather all of them, manifest themselves in social life. No human virtue can appear by living in isolation. Rather human beings develop towards [spiritual] perfection though interaction with other human beings. Nations should, therefore, interact with one another.
Well, it has been more than a 100 years so far that the world has been trapped by a particular thought and its practical consequences. In fact, the world is ruled by the fundamentals of a particular ideology and course of action, which have influenced all dimensions of the human beings' individual and social life. This thought and this behaviour have affected the world's culture, the world's economy, the world's social interactions, the world's industry, the world's agriculture and everything else. Well, we have seen the [adverse] consequences of this, which we might perhaps discuss later [in this interview].
Well, the Iranian nation cannot accept that this thought and this conduct, which intend to impose all illegal demands of a small group on the rest of the world. That is, the garget of their imposition is not merely the nation of Iran, but all nations of the world. It is natural that the Iranian nation should act against this and should utter its own words. It is natural that the Iranian nation should smash the false atmosphere which they [the major powers] have created. We do not wish to squabble with anyone, but would like to utter our own words.
Well, the UN is one of the main centres for the exchange of views in the world. And basically, it should be the best place for debate and important decision-making over the issues which affect the whole world. That is, in reality, the UN should be the main place for manifesting the sort of democracy that they [the major powers] have been trying to promote in the world. In other words, everyone should go there to put across his own point of view. Then there will be debates and decision-making, provided they make fair decisions. Well, we saw what the situation of the UN was.
The UN General Assembly provides an opportunity for interaction and for expansion of ties. It provides the opportunity [to us] to let the rest of the world hear our words, to listen to others and be influential. I think that this ninth government has recognized this opportunity well and, therefore, prepared a plan. I have attended the assembly four times and each time, we have come though a development process.
Challenging US domination
[Ahmadinezhad, continues] Well, before my first visit, they [the US administration] had spread their propaganda throughout the world in a manner as if they were the absolute ruler of the world, as if they enjoyed the best lifestyle and as if they possessed the most perfect philosophy. Through their propaganda, they had pretended to the world that no-one had anything to say before them. On the other hand, they had spread further propaganda, to the effect that the Iranian nation was no longer a nation with a particular message [of Islam for the rest of the world] and that the Iranian nation had submitted to their [the US administration's] domineering will.
You remember their propaganda of those days. Not only them, not one or two individuals, not just their media and experts, but the political authorities of other countries [other major powers] were also saying: "We have finished the task of subduing the Iranian nation; and we are now dominating them!" At the time, the American government had taken control of the situation in Iraq; and drunk with their victory, they felt as if they were the only remaining pole [superpower] in control of the world. They thought that they were in control of the atmosphere; and well in the first year [Ahmadinezhad did not finish this sentence].
You also remember what sort of heavy pressure they were exerting on Iran over the nuclear issue. It was necessary for us to smash all these things [that is, all their assumptions]. That is, we had to go [to the UN] and let them know that their assumptions were incorrect, that the Iranian nation was alive, that the Iranian nation was ready in the arena, that is has got something to say, that it will defend its rights and that it will not put up with the foreign hegemony. The content of my speeches [during my first visit to the UN] and my interviews were all about these points. All my remarks were around this point, that is, shattering their assumptions.
In the second year, we dealt with the nuclear issue and other matters more precisely and in greater detail. We exposed [their plots] to some extent. In addition, we opened a line of communication with the people of America and other people of the world. This is because the people of America, a population of 300 million, have turned into the supporting foundation of the domineering world order. Whether they willing or not, they [the US administration] dispatch armies [to other countries] in their name, plunder the wealth [of other nations] in their name and impose [policies on smaller nations] in their name. Nevertheless, the people of America are themselves wronged totally [by their administration]. That is, they [the US administration], through some particular political plot and control of the media, have created a situation whereby the people of America cannot express their views. Not only that, the people [of America] have no hope of seeing that their views are taken into consideration by the administration. Well, we opened this line [of communication] during our second visit.
In the third year, we in fact threw into question the existing structure of such international organizations as the UN Security Council and the...
[Heydari interrupts] Do you mean that you proposed some structural change?
[Ahmadinezhad] Yes, structural change; and this year we entered a theoretical discussion...
[Heydari interrupts again] That is, changing the location of the...
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] Yes to change its location; and also we proposed changes in order to deal with the difficulties, which have appeared by such assumptions of the major powers.
Support of the US media
[Ahmadinezhad, continues] These things must change. That is, if we wish to reach [the goal of witnessing] a prosperous world, attitudes must change, foundation of [the major powers'] assumptions must change, relationships must change and management [of the international organizations] must change. Side by side this [our plan to change these things during our second visit to the UN], we established a link with the American people. Well, in this respect, Almighty God was kind and directed us; and provided us with ample opportunities last year. Well, He [God] created the story of Columbia [University] last year. As a result He directed all the mass media to contrite on the word of the Iranian nation.
The same events occurred this year too. However, as you know, the number of our schedules, the diversity of our programmes and the content of our programmes, all of them were upgraded. Well, during this visit, we had a meeting with the groups opposed to the war [in Iraq and Afghanistan]. More than 50 groups had come from various regions of America. And it is interesting that 10 or 15 of them spoke on behalf of the rest. Whether they were opposed to the war or not, they were all united on uttering the same sentence; and that was: "Mr Ahmadinezhad! Please let the Iranian people know that the nation of America does not endorse these deeds of the American government."
There was another sentence, which they kept repeating in many of their remarks; and that was: "Sir! In America, the nation's views have no influence over the actions of the administration. What have you done in Iran that the nation is in the arena with you? And your young people are active. What can we do in order to create political enthusiasm among our young people?" Well, I answered them as far as I knew ... [sentence left unfinished].
And we had a meeting with the representatives of various religious groups. The leaders of world religions had come. They [the US administration] were very angry about that meeting. They threatened the participants. They also threatened the anti-war groups and the students. They [the anti-war groups and the students] told us that they had been threatened [by the authorities]. We have seen that there is an ever increasing support for the stance of the Iranian nation. This support is strengthening in the manner of ascending progression.
[Enadi interrupts] I suppose this is all the result of the move, which began in the diplomatic sphere...
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] Bravo! Yes it was [sentence left unfinished]. Well, the rush of the media [to interview me] is partly because they wish to disseminate the news. But it is mainly because of competition among them. Some members of the media see that they could be left behind if they fail to come [to see us and talks to us]. Last year, we saw a report who came to see us with his [or her; it could have been Christian Amanpour] team. They stayed outside our residence from 0700 until 1200. He [she] was almost pleading with us by saying: "Sir! Basically, if I fail to interview you, I'll be finished. My media will disappear. Basically, I will be expelled from work. Everyone else has come to interview you, except me. We must have interview with the representative of the Iranian nation." In reply, I said: "I am prepared to answer only one of your questions; because you have been bad tempered and rude in the past; and because you had prepared unflattering and false reports about the Iranian nation." That was it; I only answered one of his [her] questions and left without listening to any more questions.
Changing world attitude
[Heydari interrupts] Dr Ahmadinezhad! There is a general assumption that such bodies as the United Nations General Assembly are simply some sort of gathering which has no binding power. That is, a series of speeches are made there which have no effect. The assumption is that the UN Security Council is the gravitational centre with executive authority and everything happens there. And my last question is that we can address our own people in the country because we are in control of our media. But there is no receptive ear in the world to hear our points of view. We can do practically nothing to reach the ears of five or six billion people of the world. What are your comments about this? Did you manage in this visit or in your previous visits ......?
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts]It is wrong to make such assumptions. We know that several major powers are in control of all the power in the United Nations but we must move in the opposite direction in order to counteract them. That is, we must revive the UN General Assembly. We must value its decisions. We must give it responsibility and then demand a response. These are not the sorts of things which have suddenly appeared or which can be resolved overnight. The system is 100 years old and cannot be altered overnight. We must work hard and we must struggle. I do not agree with your comments that our proclaimed stance cannot reach the ears of the world. On the contrary, it is reaching them. We can see that it is reaching them. Still we must work even harder. At present, most prominent media of the world directly broadcast many of the statements of the Iranian nation to the rest of the world.
]Enadi interrupts] Let me complete Mr Heydari's remarks. Yes, our comments can reach the ears of the people of the world. However, the resolutions of the UN General Assembly are merely regarded as recommendations and are not binding in the same way as the resolutions of the UN Security Council. Perhaps for the same reason, what is said in the UN General Assembly cannot be very effective.
[Ahmadinezhad] Yes, but after all, the UN General Assembly is a prelude to bringing changes at the UN Security Council. That is, it is ultimately up to the nations of the world to demand change. The first step was to encourage them to lose their fear. The second step is to try to unite in what they are demanding. And the third step is to realize their demands. At present we are taking the second step. Fortunately, the members of the Non-Aligned Movement took tow or three good decisions in their meeting in Tehran. Their decisions entered the practical stage. In other words, all of them realized that through unity they can influence global developments.
[Heydari] Dr Ahmadinezhad! During such gatherings at the UN there are talks between the world leaders which are not always reported by the official media. This could be because of political considerations by various world leaders. For instance, there have been occasions whereby some officials have made comments which have had undesirable consequences for them. Do you remember any such meetings? I mean that you might meet a world leader who says something to you in private but when he goes outside, at the UN General Assembly or during an interview he says something different.
[Ahmadinezhad] Such things do exist. For example the first year when I attended the UN General Assembly there was a large gap between what some world leaders told me in private and what they expressed openly outside. There excuse was that they were under extreme pressure. But this gap has been narrowed down drastically at the present time. Basically, the situation has been reversed. For instance, during our first visit, many of them were telling us: "Sir! It is very dangerous. You must climb down. Basically your chosen path is pointless. You have chosen a false road and will come to a dead end. You will be destroyed." They were even putting it in much harsher terms [to put us off]. But things have improved gradually. So much so that these days they tell us: "Sir! This is really excellent. Well done. Your stance was superb. We are learning a lesson from you."
Basically, the whole atmosphere has changed. For example, in the first year the major powers were making very harsh speeches against us. This has gradually calmed down too. That is, the atmosphere no longer welcomes harsh speeches against Iran. And basically, let me tell you that many smaller countries at present are ridiculing the major powers. They laugh at the threats of the major powers. If I were to interpret the whole thing in a clear statement, I must say that the major powers had presented themselves as some sort of idols. These idols must be smashed. Thanks to divine succour and the steadfastness of the Iranian nation, these idols have now been smashed. That is, their awe has been destroyed in the minds of the other nations. And most leaders of these nations have lost their fear of the major powers too. At present, no-one any longer raises such questions.
Future ties with the USA
[Ahmadinezhad, continues] When I am asked questions [at international forums] these days, my answer is welcomed by the audience. They all say that my comments are justified. There are plenty of speeches at the UN General Assembly which criticize the domineering world order. In the same last session of the Assembly, the chairman delivered a harsh speech against the domineering world order. He basically started his remarks by saying; "The UN was established 63 years ago. Today, the plight of the world is much worse than what it was 63 years ago. The problem of global poverty, discrimination, lack of security, economic downturn and culture [decadence] are much worse today." Can you see?! The chairman of the Assembly made such a strong speech. Other speakers followed his example.
[Enadi] And the chairman supported Iran's membership of the UN Security Council..?
[Ahmadinezhad] Yes, he defended Iran's proposed membership and so did some other figures. Of course, this was a test for the domineering world order. We deliberately asked [members of our team] to go and register Iran's name as a proposed member because we wanted to expose the working pattern of the domineering world order. We said that if we were to be accepted as a member, it would be a defeat for them. And they knew that through Iran's membership we shall be able to defend the rights of all other nations and shall not allow anyone to trample on the rights of these nations.
[Heydari] And if they refused to accept Iran's proposed membership, that would not say much for their promoted ideal of democracy.
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] Well, when they do not allow our membership, the outcome is clear. Basically, we are the target of their adverse slogans. They cannot tolerate any dissent and cannot bear to hear the voice of opposition. So that was another defeat for them.
[Enadi] Mr President! Now that we are discussing America, I had better ask you another question in this regard. These days there are talks of opening an office of Iran-America relations in Tehran; and the issue of opening an interests section is also part of the same proposal. Apparently, the State Department in America has given its permission...
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] It is not up to them to give permission! We are supposed to give permission.
[[Enadi] Of course, but I am saying that they have apparently given their permission. But what sort of effect will such an office have on America's attitude towards the Islamic Republic of Iran in the future? Can it be a prelude...?
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] Well, I do not know what the source of this news is; it is just a report...
[[Enadi interrupts] It has been reported by the world...
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] Look! The important point is that today, the American government - that is, the domineering American attitude - has reached the end of the line. It has to alter its behaviour. They must change their behaviour. You should have no doubt about this matter. If they were to refuse to change their behaviour, they would be crushed under the foot of global waves [against them]. Even for the sake of saving themselves, they would have to change. One of the policies that they must change concerns their behaviour towards Iran. I said the same thing there [in New York]. I repeated this several times. I said in the presence of various American personalities who had gathered as scholars and proprietors of the media. I said it explicitly that this is serious. The American statesmen have no other alternative. This is because Iran is at present the only influential political and cultural pole in all relations. If we wanted to grant the Iranian nation its deserved right by making a statement to befit them, we must say: The Iranian nation is the only nation which, for the current circumstances of the world, has got something new to say; that is, a new word with firm foundation and humanitarian outlook. Other nations have something new to say too. But they do not have the opportunity to express themselves. They cannot put together all their words and express them. They are scattered. They do not have the platform at their disposal. They do not have the opportunity. For instance, in America itself many people were telling us: "We cannot speak our mind. What we want to say is different from what is said on our behalf."
[Heydari] Dr Ahmadinezhad! Let us leave the discussion concerning the establishment of a council to improve relations between the Iranians and the American nationals. However, there is one official issue and that is about opening the American Interests Section in Iran. When we talked to you about three months ago you said that there will be a report on some serious transformation in the Iran America relations within the next few months. Has the time now come? And basically is something along those lines going to happen?
[Ahmadinezhad] You see, the American's do have an American Interest Section in Iran. It is in the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.
[Heydari] No. I meant their own independent interests section.
[Ahmadinezhad] They said something to this effect, but have not followed it up. I think that they are waiting for the outcome of their presidential election so that they can come forward with in a more organized fashion. However, one thing is certain and that is that at present a serious demand has taken shape. There are two dimensions to this demand. One concerns the wrong stance of the American government against Iran and the second stance concerns [the American] people's relations with Iran. They [the American people] are saying this quite clearly. Different media report these. The people are saying that there is high popular pressure on the American statesman to make them amend their behaviour. It is true that they [the American administration], through propaganda, intended to prevent the American people from hearing the righteous stance of the Iranian nation. But thanks to God's mercy the righteousness of the Iranian nation has penetrated into the homes of the American people [through the mass media]; and they have accepted the logic of the Iranian nation. In other words, the American people do not accept the negative propaganda of the American media against the Iranian nation. This will happen.
[Enadi] Dr Ahmadinezhad! The current American administration has nearly reached the end of its life. What will be our stance towards the next administration be it a republican or a democrat one? Will our stance remain the same or will it change in the coming months?
[Ahmadinezhad] Look, our stance is the same. In other words, we are following our principles. We are saying that relations should be based on mutual respect and justice. This is a constant principle and we are acting on this basis. It therefore does not matter who will be elected next. Whoever is elected we shall put this principle on the table and say: "Here you are. If you have respect for this principle, our response will be positive and if not, we shall continue the existing trend." It is clear who will incur losses under the existing trend.
[Enadi] One of the main topics of debate between Messrs Obama and McCane concerns the issue of Iran. Mr Obama has said that he is prepared to talk with Mr Ahmadinezhad without any preconditions. They [the Americans] have taken this very seriously and are pursuing it. It has raised a lot of discussion inside America. That is why Mr Heydari asked whether....
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] This is because he [Obama] has realized that by making such a proposal he will win more votes [laughter].
[Heydari] This will definitely be one of the topics which they discuss in television debates. Even if the interviewer does not question them on this matter, the candidates themselves will raise the issue.
[Ahmadinezhad] I said that this is what the people are demanding. Since the people are demanding this, the [presidential candidate] who is smarter, will speak in agreement with the people so that he can win more votes.
[Enadi] Dr Ahmadinezhad! The development which you promised, when is it going to happen? Is it going to happen during the life of the current government or afterwards?
[Ahmadinezhad] Are you in a hurry?
[Enadi] No, we are not in a hurry, but in our foreign policy the issue of America is highly significant.
[Ahmadinezhad] In my opinion, this major transformation has already taken place. You mentioned this yourself. You said that the topic of public diplomacy amounts to having a relationship with the people. I think that our relationship with the people of America has been established to a large extent. This is the basis for just interaction. When the people of a country demand something, their statesmen must surrender to the will of the people. If they do not, they will turn out to be the loser. This has take place already. That is, the foundations of rectifying relations must be built on justice. In the past, these relations were one sided and unfair. From the time when they had relations, as well as at the time of severing relations and afterwards, they have always tried to exert pressure [on Iran], to humiliate Iran, to insult Iran, to impose sanctions on Iran and to put limits on Iran. They used to address the Iranian nation from a superior position. However, at present, they are unable to call the shots. That is, the American nation has realized that their administration has been lying to them over the past 30 years. The people are very eager to expand ties with Iran. In my opinion, the major transformation has taken place already. What remains is the faade and the faade can change depending on the level of intelligence among the American statesmen. The speed of change depends on their intelligence.
[Heydari] Dr Ahmadinezhad! In diplomacy it is the norm to benefit from important proposals. Your proposal to Mr Bush and the future president of America has been to participate in a joint televised debate. Mr Obama has proposed to talk without preconditions. If he were to be elected as president, will you talk to him or take part in a debate?
[Ahmadinezhad] I think that you must first allow us to move forward a little bit. There will be other developments as well. In line with the circumstances we shall take steps, of course by relying on our principles.
[Enadi] Mr President! We are about to close this part of the discussion about relations with America. But before doing so, I would like to ask one more question. You mentioned that in the sphere of public opinion, public diplomacy has already taken place. I would like to go one step further and say that five former secretaries of state have also requested that talks should be held with the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, we do not see such a desire on the part of the American statesmen themselves. For instance, during Mr Bush's speech at the UN General Assembly you were present. But when you started to make your speech, the American delegation was not there. What is the meaning of this? Does it mean that the idea has not penetrated into the minds of the American statesmen? Has it come to a halt at this juncture?
[Ahmadinezhad] No, it has not come to a halt. You see, it is after all, a sign of respect to treat others is a special way. We are not at all worried when we sit and listen to the other speakers' remarks. Well, they speak and we fro our part sit and listen. If the speakers' comments are justified, we benefit. If not, we express our own opinion. We think that we should express our [desire for] a just and respectful relationship through our behaviour. And we did so [by sitting and listening to George bush's speech at the UN General Assembly. Well, perhaps he did not have the patience to listen to mine. Or perhaps he could not bear it. It does not matter after all. Basically, its outcome was negative. You know that even the American newspapers showed a strong reaction vis--vis his decision. The newspaper s said that his [George Bush's] measure was negative and a sign of weakness.
Global financial crisis
[This take is re-released, correcting the broadcast date]
[President Ahmadinezhad continues] Look! Certain things in the world must change, particularly in America. The prevailing culture which they [the administration] has promoted, considers all behaviours to be based on survival of the fittest. That is, they believe that the fittest should impose his ideas on others. For instance, after my interview with Mr Larry King, their newspapers had published some blown up headlines saying that he won [the argument], but in reality I has not gone there to win or lose. My argument was that we should go there and speak our mind in order to clarify the problems. We listened to them and they listened to what we had to say.
[Enadi] Their attitude is based on the policy of might [is right].
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] Bravo! And they believe in winning in every arena because to them every arena is the arena of struggle for survival of the fittest. But we oppose such arguments. We are saying that every arena should be the arena of interaction, striving for perfection and cooperation.
In my opinion, whatever was supposed to happen has happened over the past four years. We must be patient now.
[Heydari] Yes, of course. Dr Ahmadinezhad! Some people strongly believe that the solution to many of our problems and issues concerning our foreign policy as well as some of our economic problems lie in resolving and settling our problems with America. Do you, after several years of experience at this level, accept such an argument? And if yes, to what extent? I mean if we do not resolve our problems with the Americans, can our problems never be resolved, or do you not consider there to be any connection between these two things whatsoever?
[Ahmadinezhad] Look! Whether problems are solved or not [Ahmadinezhad does not finish the sentence]. Basically, this world is the worlds of confronting problems. You se, in whatever stage of progress and evolution we may be, we would still have to confront some problems at that level. Therefore, your question is fundamentally flawed. Secondly, there a proverb which says: "You must learn to walk before you can run." [Laughter]. These [American authorities] cannot even manage themselves. They cannot save themselves. Now, it has become clear that Iran was right to chant for 30 years that they were hollow drums. Basically, they cannot save anyone else be it in the cultural or economic field. Look what has happened in those countries where the Americans had influence. They used to describe the South East Asian countries as the zenith of political, economic and industrial progress based on the style of the West. But you can see how they had arranged everything that by a single bank transaction they managed to plunder all the people's wealth and assets.
[Heydari] Yes, Mr George Soros took it all away.
[Ahmadinezhad] This is because all these [the Western policies] are aimed at plundering. Well, when you go there [to south East Asia] you see that most people are ordinary workers. They all work hard, but their earnings go into someone else's pocket. It has become clear, particularly now, that they cannot manage themselves, let alone trying to save others. How do they want to come and save us?
Basically, the nation which is victorious and successful, is that nation, which moves forward by relying on its own ability. A successful nation stands on its own two feet and relies on itself. Of course, we must have constructive interaction too. However, constructive interaction and [economic] exchange are complementary requirements for progress and not the main elements. The main elements come from the resolve of the nation. One must stand firm and whatever a nation acquires through national resolve, it will last for ever. That is, when something bubbles up from the core of the nation, it will flow throughout history. But when something is borrowed or is received as aid, it will run out one day. I do not believe this at all. We can do something else in the world.
[Enadi] With your permission Dr Ahmadinezhad, we now go to the economic section of our discussion. We have been discussing the issue of America rather longer than we envisaged. Mt President! On the issue of economic discussion, when we last met the problem of inflation and controlling the circulation of cash in the system was the topic of the day. At the time it was said that about 160 thousand billion tomans cash was circulating in the economy. Many economists believe that this amount of cash is responsible for the level of inflation. However, some current reports indicate that this amount has increased to 175 thousand billion tomans, whereas others say that the amount is the same or have fallen slightly. At any rate, the link between these two is still serious. What measures have been taken during this period to control the amount of cash in circulation and subsequent inflation? Basically, do you believe that we have inflation in the country or not?
On inflation, large money borrowers
[Ahmadinezhad] Yes we do have inflation, but that is a different discussion. However, during the past six month the growth in the amount of cash in circulation has been zero; and at some junctures, it has been negative despite the fact that the government had continued its work and has gone on with investing...
[Heydari interrupts] You mean the rate of acceleration in the growth [of cash] has been negative...?
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] No, basically its growth has been zero. Yes the growth in the amount of cash in circulation has been zero. In other words, it has remained in its previous level. But we had inflation too; and there are other reasons which are responsible for inflation. I am not trying to say that the amount of cash in circulation plays no role. After all, our economy is based on having cash in the system. Without cash, the wheels of the economy will ground to a halt. The important point however is the direction of moving the cash. If the cash circulates properly through the system, its function will be like circulation of blood within one's body. If it circulates properly, on time and at the right amount, the body will function in a healthy manner. But any shortfall which disturbs this balance will create a hitch. Compared with the rate of our economic growth, the amount of cash in circulation is not really high. But the network of management and regulating the amount of cash in circulation is beset with fundamental problems. This is one of the axes of economic transformation.
The duty of the monetary system and monetary network [the banking system] is to collect money [from depositors] and lend it [to borrowers. That is, it should collect and distribute money. But it must organize this properly. The missions, which had been specified for our monetary system, had a general aspect which was not suitable for our economy which is supposed to grow by 7, 8 or 9 per cent [per year]. The system of communication is old and obsolete; and basically many managing directors of the banks are not up to date with new developments. So how could they expect their staff to be up to date? We must transform this. If we manage to transform this, then we shall not have any outstanding difficulty.
Yes, we did have inflation this year. But inflation is partly structural because the rate of return [in state companies] is low; and it is partly imported inflation. Let me explain by giving you some figures. Over the past six months, our imports were reduced by 11 per cent in weight, but the price went up by 28 per cent. This is because commodity prices have gone up in the world. You can see that our imports have come down in weight and volume, but the cost has gone up. Well, the extra cost is transferred into the price of commodities inside the country. This is quite clear to understand. Even if the cost is not transferred [by us subsidizing some imported commodities such as petrol] and the price of a commodity remains at 100 tomans [per litre], the commodity will be directed [that is, smuggled] to the neighbouring country, where the price is 300 tomans [per litre]. Even if we were to try and stop it, they [the smugglers] would eventually find other channels. When that happens, it mans that the prices inside the country would have to rise to 300 tomans too. So a part of our inflation is imported from abroad.
Current structure [of distributing commodities] is another factor responsible for inflation. Another cause of inflation in our country is the network which controls the amount of cash in circulation. After all, if some individuals borrow large amounts of money and fail to settle their debt on schedule; and when those individuals use the cash for another purpose [instead of the purpose, which they promised the bank]; for instance if they take the money and circulate in the market...
[Heydari interrupts] Dr Ahmadinezhad! Who are the thick necked individuals [meaning tycoons like Rafsanjani] whom you mentioned yesterday? Are you going to name them eventually? For a number of years, the people have been waiting for you to expose them, but you have not so far.
[Ahmadinezhad] Well, what is truly more important, their names or their action?
[Heydari] Well, if you were to name them now, they might give back the money which they have borrowed?
[Ahmadinezhad] Then let me tell you something. It has been decided, with respect to those individuals who have borrowed [large sums of] money but are refusing to settle their debt, that the borrowers should receive a letter [from the bank] giving them a deadline to settle their debt. If they still fail to give back the money, then [the banks] will file a lawsuit against them; and the complaint will be published in the newspapers too.
[Enadi] Dr Ahmadinezhad! Are the borrowers just some individuals or companies?
[Ahmadinezhad] Most of them [the borrowers], who face problems in settling their debt, are in the shape of individuals [individual borrowers]. Of course, there are some companies which are individuals in essence. For instance, a family of five has gone and set up six different companies. Each member of the family has become the managing director in their different firms and other members become the board of directors. As a result, they have been able to borrow money from 10 different places [10 different banks]
[Heydari interrupts] Well, banks usually do not lend any money unless they secure some assets of the borrowers as collateral in advance. Can these banks not sell the assets...?
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] Well, these regulations must be reformed. We have begun the task and are making rapid progress.
[Enadi interrupts] Dr Ahmadinezhad! You have yourself raised the discussion concerning the case of some individuals who have borrowed let us 110 billion tomans, but are left alone when they have failed to settle their debt. On the other hand, if a farmer fails to settle his debt amount to three million tomans, he and his guarantors will be summoned [by the court].
[Ahmadinezhad] We are amending this [law] very rapidly; and God willing it will be amended. Of course, it is a difficult task. This is because when an individual has [plenty of] money, in effect he has the power to haggle, the power to have links, the power to resist; he acquires political power and he acquires media power. The task [confronting such tycoons] is therefore difficult. But it is going ahead. And we have reached the last trench. That is, we have reached the end of the line and have realized which section needs a greater degree of management to be rectified.
The banks are cooperating well [with us]. Our electronic banking system is becoming operational. When the electronic banking system becomes operational, most of these things will be resolved. The banks' network of experts and their communication network are holding a lot of meetings and are working hard in order to up to date themselves and resolve these difficulties.
[Heydari] There is some sort of turmoil in the market at present. You have seen that in the wake of introducing the three per cent value added [tax], which was supposed to come into effect from the first of Mehr [22 September 2008], the bazaar reacted so suddenly. This shows that even if it [the price rise] is not real, the expectation is that will contribute [to rising inflation]. This is particularly true because, in accordance with an old custom, the government allocates more money [to various state departments] in the second half of the year; and the current expenditure goes up in the last six months of the year [from 22 September to 20 March]. All discussions of the economic experts show that we are going to face a big rate of inflation as we approach the end of the current year, whether the Economic Transformation Plan goes ahead or not?
Falling house prices
[Ahmadinezhad] You see, our inflation curve has started its downward trend. Well, the price of housing was one of the major contributory factors; and you can see that house prices are falling. The price of many other commodities has started falling too. Of course, we cannot control the price of some other commodities because they are imported from abroad. We can control their impact by offering subsidies. But the general trend is towards lower prices.
[Enadi] The figure [for inflation] was 22.3 per cent in the month of Mordad [22 July to 22 August 2008]. Is it falling now?
[Ahmadinezhad] Of course, 22.3 per cent is higher than last year's figure of 16 per cent. However, a different basket of commodities have been used for measuring inflation. They [our experts] are currently working on this new basket of commodities. The basket proposed by the Central Statistical Office is different from the one proposed by the Budget and Planning Organization. They are debating the subject until they come up with a basket of commodities which is the true representatives of the average consumer goods. This is because the current basket of commodities is showing a higher rate of inflation; and this is not the real figure; because from the beginning of this year, we have witnessed a falling price in the housing sector. The price of some commodities has remained unchanged, some are falling and, of course, some prices have gone up. But on the whole the general trend is downward.
The prediction about [higher inflation rate in] the second half of the current year is not accurate. We think that this falling trend will naturally continue in the second half of the year too. We have managed the government's expenditure and resources. In fact we are in the process of completing a major part of this [expenditure] in the third quarter of the year. We shall not therefore concentrate a large volume of the government's expenditure into the month of Bahman and Esfand [20 January to 20 March 2009]. We have managed this and have brought forward the allocation of money [presumably, for paying bonuses to civil servants]. I think that in practice we should not have higher government expenditure. On the contrary, we might reduce our expenditure.
[Heydari] Dr Ahmadinezhad! As you have given examples, some individuals believe that with the falling house prices, the developers will be discouraged from investing in the construction of new property. And therefore there is a risk that we might face a shortage of housing in the future and then the prices could rise drastically? What does your report show? Are we facing any difficulty in the housing sector?
[Ahmadinezhad] You asked a good question. Reports indicate that there is a growth [in the house building sector]. That is, more planning permissions have been issued in urban areas. Over the past six months, there has been a growth rate of 27 to 28 per cent in our cities, compared to a similar period last year. And last year, there was a growth rate of 80 per cent compared with the year before. However, these statistics do not include the Mehr house building projects. Fortunately, the banking difficulties of the Mehr house building projects have been resolved and banks will provide the necessary loan. Those houses will be built rapidly. We have calculated that we need to build at least one million extra houses for the next three to four years. This should meet the outstanding needs as well as the needs of the growing population. Those born between the years 1360 to 1364 [1981 to 1985] have entered the job market now; and seek to find a job, marry and raise a family. We must also improve the old style methods of constructing houses.
In rural areas, fortunately, the task had progressed very well. This government has constructed nearly 500 thousand new homes. We are in the process of building 300 thousand more homes. The planning process has gone ahead, land is available and the foundations of some buildings are laid [with concrete]. That is, we are making progress.
The pressure [of house shortage] was in cities and in particular the major cities. But now the prices are falling. There are plenty of new house building work [presumably, by individuals]. We are trying to make sure that the people are not discouraged from investing in the housing sector. We are only trying to stop price speculation and greed. It [the rising prices] truly resembled a bubble. A house could not be so expensive. Basically, in our economy, houses should not be so expensive. However, it [the rising prices] was providing an adverse climate [for our opponents] to exploit the situation, to hold interviews and to stage propaganda [against the government]. When the house prices were rising by let us say one million tomans, they used to have at least 200 blown up headlines in their newspapers. But now that the prices are falling, there is not even one blown up headline.
[Enadi interrupts] But Mr President! We know that the prices are falling and that is a different discussion.
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] And incidentally, it is the first time [in history] that house prices are falling.
[Enadi] But when they were rising, the acceleration rate was much higher. For instance, the price from one million tomans per square metre had risen to four million tomans per square metre; but now that it is falling, it has come down from four million to 3.5 million; and not to the original one million!
Foreign currency reserves
[Enadi, continues] In other words, the house prices have not fallen drastically.
[Ahmadinezhad] Look! When the price went up, it did not happen over night. The price rise was gradual.
[Enadi] But its rate of acceleration was high.
[Ahmadinezhad] Yes, this is always the case. However, we are exerting pressure on the housing market. I mean not on the real housing market, but on the speculative price rise which had become like a bubble. Well, we are facing resistance; but the task must proceed gradually. We do not insist that house prices should fall rapidly; because if they were to fall rapidly, it might create problems in other economic sectors.
[Heydari] It might create a problem for the foreign currency reserve for instance?
[Ahmadinezhad] Yes, we...
[Enadi interrupts] Do you mean that it is possible to reduce house prices rapidly?
[Ahmadinezhad] I must say that, as house prices fall, we create parallel facilities in the stock market so that the people can invest their money there. We are offering [state company shares]. We are created activity in the stock market, so that the free capital from the housing market can be invested in a healthy sector.
[Heydari] Dr Ahmadinezhad! The amount of cash invested in the housing sector is very large. If it is directed from land and property into other sectors, it cannot all be absorbed. Previously, the people could invest money in cars, gold coins, mobile phones and other such commodities. But if the people decide now to buy foreign currency, in view of the fact that the exchange rate for hard currency is [deliberately kept] low, it might exert pressure on the Central Bank. That is, the Central Bank may not be able to meet so much demand?
[Ahmadinezhad] No, there is no problem in this respect. This is because, fortunately, our foreign currency reserves are very high. Such high amount of foreign currency is unprecedented in the country's history. It is very high and secure. We have saved enough foreign currency so as to be able to manage the country for a number of years. We have and we are safeguarding it...
[Heydari interrupts] Dr Ahmadinezhad! Now that you are mentioning this point, per haps you could some time in the future present a report on the foreign currency fund. I know that you have not enough time this evening. But may be you could so in the future so as to address some uncertainties. At present, there is plenty of ambiguity in the media, among the officials and among the people about the foreign currency reserves fund. For instance, some people are saying that instead of the expected 150 billion dollars, only 7bn dollars is left in the fund...?
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] Such comments are politically motivated. There are some former officials who know that this [fund] is safeguarded with a great deal of care. They know what sort of hierarchy is needed [to withdraw some cash]. That is, they know that no-one in this country can touch even a single dollar of this fund. They know this, but nevertheless they say something else in their political game. They know that we can never reveal the exact amount. This is because a country's foreign currency reserve is one of its secrets. No country would divulge [its secrets]. Yes, the authorities of the state know [the exact figure]. Those authorities, who should supervise and receive reports, do receive reports [on the amount in the foreign currency reserve fund]. Incidentally, one of our most protected departments is the department which is dealing with the foreign currency and bank notes. There is a team from the Central Bank and several other individuals who watch [this fund]. No- one can withdraw a single dollar without the legal instructions [of the Majlis]. In the same way, no-one can demand a single tomans for expenditure without endorsement of the law. In our country, every withdrawal from the Treasury requires permission of the law. And it is clear what the ratified bills [of the Majlis] are.
[Heydari interrupts] Do you therefore reject the allegations?
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] basically, these [allegations] are political games; unfortunately.
[Enadi interrupts] Some individuals compare our country with the neighbouring countries which have oil revenue. They say that those countries have a higher foreign currency reserves because there have been irregular withdrawals from the fund in our country?
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] look! Basically, no-one can take a dollar out of this fund outside the regulations. This [allegation] is very ridiculous. The legal bills are obvious. They are announced after being passed [by the Majlis]. Who can take money out of this fund? Let them [the individuals who make allegations] announce who is authorized to withdraw money out of this public fund. There is law for everything; and the law has specified the limits and the boundaries. All I can say is that you should know our [foreign currency] reserves are in excellent situation, praise be to God. We have enough foreign currency reserve at present to last us for two or three more years even if we sell no oil at all.
They [our opponents] go on offering rudimentary analyses [of the currency reserve situation]. After all, the radio and television announce the oil prices on a daily basis. They give the price as a single commodity, for short term or long term sale contracts. The oil prices keep fluctuating throughout the year. Then there is the extraction cost. The cost is shouldered by the Oil Ministry. The government's expenditure is determined by the law. The law tells each of us how much we can withdraw for various expenditures. Incidentally, at a meeting of the Strategic Council today, we were having a new debate. I became a bit upset and told off some of my colleagues. Well, as you know, some regions of the country have been experiencing drought. We were supposed to allocate a special budget to a region to cope with the drought. This will enable the relevant departments to reschedule the repayment of farmers' debts to one of the banks. The Central Bank had not yet deposited the required amount into the Treasury account. That is, some foreign currency had been deposited into the Treasury account but they had said: "This amount of currency is destined for another task and cannot be used for the drought". I said: "My dear fellow! It is not as if the law has not permitted us to spend this amount of foreign currency on another public project; now you can allocate it to dealing with the drought". They said: "If we were to do so, we would face a 15-man team from the State Accounts Office tomorrow, who would interrogate us. We will not do this." Eventually I told them: "Do this and tomorrow the central Bank can alter the relevant letter of instruction." For a period of one month, a legal wrangle had continued between the Treasury, the vice-president in charge of supervising banks and the Central Bank officials over the issue of directing the money to the right account for expenditure. You can see what degree of meticulous care is taken over such expenditure. This has always been the case - not just in this government. This sector has been very serious.
[Heydari interrupts] Dr Ahmadinezhad! The important fundamental issue is to give the indication to society and the market that there is stability. As you know, in our country the system depends on individuals and not on regulations.
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] Please do not forget to raise the question of the three per cent....
[Heydari interrupts] Yes, definitely, definitely I shall do that. But let me first say that when a manager is replaced in a department, the new manager introduces extensive alterations. He changes his staff, the regulations and many other things. Bringing in such changes will not give a good signal to the economic sector, to the bazaar and to the people. Let me give you a single example. Since last year, there have been several different methods for subsidizing wheat seed, fertilizer, pesticides, etc. Once, the relevant officials said that the subsidy would be given to the companies which supply these items. On another occasion they told farmers to open bank accounts so that the subsidy could be deposited directly into their accounts. Eventually they said that there would be no subsidy at all. Some experts even believe that our wheat production was damaged more by the changing regulations than by the effects of the drought. I am not sure, but it is very important to have stability. That is, we should have stability at managerial levels as well as in the regulations and circulars. Stability will make everyone feel secure. This is particularly important over short term investments. For instance, investing in the hatching unit of a poultry farm can give a return within 45 days; and other farming products can bring a return within a year. Would you like to reconsider your policies in this regards?
[Ahmadinezhad] Look, some of your remarks are justified. Yes we need to have stability. But stability does not mean keeping the people [presumably, he means such as the governor of the Central Bank] in their posts. Stability comes from having a plan. That is, you should see what you [if you were an official] are supposed to do while serving in a sector. You should then pursue the policy; and your future replacement would do the same. Even if there were 100 of future replacements, they can also pursue the same line of policy. There are some countries in the world whose entire cabinet is completely replaced once a year.
[Heydari] That is a very good idea, provided the officials carry out the policies on systematic basis.
[Ahmadinezhad] Again, plan is more important than systematic approach. That is, you [as an official of the state] should know which direction you are supposed to take. You must then safeguard the direction. And when you do that, it does not matter if the individuals are replaced [as officials]. On the contrary, because everyone would be working on the basis of the plan, it will be easier for us to assess the individuals. Please note, since we are operating on the basis of a plan, any individual who refuses to join the plan or cannot keep pace with the plan, can go to be replaced by some one else. This is an important point.
With regards to your comments that such changes will affect the bazaar and that when new individuals take over [as new state officials] they alter the system, fortunately this has not been the case. Yes, there might have been some individuals in the past, who as managers worked outside the plan. The people know the consequences of such managers' action. As a result their replacement has had to function within the plan. This is important.
The example, which you mentioned about wheat production, incidentally the problem did not come from the government. It was one of the laws which had been approved by the Majlis and passed to the government to implement it. Such issues do not occur in the sphere of the executive authority. [Short break in transmission].
It has been said that we must increase wheat production to 15 million tons. They have paved the way and are advancing. When a decision is taken [in the Majlis] and then the government is obliged to carry out that decision, the decision may not be in coordinated [with out plan]. It can therefore create difficulties for us. We have had many such examples. Such difficulties exist; they have existed previously and have increased at the present time. After all, the executive authority must be very flexible because in addition to the programmes, which are planned, other factors might interfere later. We in the executive authority should have plenty of flexibility in order to be able to involve those factors to serve our plan.
[Enadi interrupts] Do you mean that you should supervise the organization of these ......?
[Ahmadinezhad interrupts] Yes, [the executive authority] must organize and manage and benefit from flexibility. However, when flexibility is taken a way from the executive authority, the outcome is this [that which you can see]
Quick return projects
[Enadi] Mr President! Let us jump from the discussion on wheat production to the subject of setting up firms which bring a quick return. One of the programmes of the ninth government has been the same quick return projects. There has been a lot of discussion on this matter and the plan has both opponents and supporters. Some believe that quick return projects have created jobs, whereas others believe that the loans given to the individuals for this purpose have been spent elsewhere. A report from the Central Bank says that over 38 per cent of the loans have been inappropriately used [for other than their original purposes]. At the same time another report from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs says that only 4.6 per cent of the loans have been channelled elsewhere. Both these sources belong to the same government but their reports contradict each other. What is your answer? And basically, to what extent do these two figures concur and to what extent do they differ?
[Ahmadinezhad] Before I ask this question, I would like to remind you not to forget the issue of thee per cent. As to your question, I do not think that nay economic expert, who is familiar with the current circumstances of our country - whereby there is there is a great amount of manpower seeking employment and where there is high unemployment but we wish to have high economic growth - under such circumstances all economic experts would regard the quick return projects as a fully wise and accurate policy decision. It is impossible that any economist would reject these and say [sentence left incomplete].
Quick return projects are a recognized economic measure in the world. They fill a lot of vacuums. If we wish to achieve economic growth and cerate jobs rapidly, then we shall need quick return projects. By saying this, I am not rejecting major projects. No, these have their own place. However, from