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Americans 'hate violence,' Iranian diplomat says

June 27, 2008|Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi | Special to The Times

TEHRAN — Despite talk of war, officials of the United States and Iran have tried to get their messages out to each other through the wall of animosity between their two governments.

Iranian officials have been reaching out, more modestly, in a bid to influence American public opinion.

In a lengthy interview with The Times at his office here, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini described Americans as peace-loving people who "hate violence."

The career diplomat predicted that economic pressures, other military entanglements and public opinion would prevent the Bush administration and its successor from going to war against Iran.

"The U.S. and the Zionist regime, thanks to the increasing economic, political, security and military crises in which they are stuck, are not logically in a position to tolerate the expenses of another massive and far-reaching crisis," Hosseini said, using the Iranian government's usual label for Israel.

"Nowadays, the polling surveys carried out among U.S. elites, thinkers and, by and large, the American people, show they hate violence, further battles and anarchy," he said in the interview Wednesday.

But Hosseini, who studied physics in India, also issued a stern warning to Americans: "If there is a war against the Islamic Republic of Iran, it will be out of control and with unpredictable consequences."

Most of his work these days centers on proposals and counter-proposals between Iran and world powers aimed at getting talks started over Iran's controversial nuclear program. A recent offer from the European Union reportedly includes a "freeze for freeze" proposal that would require Iran to not start up additional centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium.

A longer version of the interview is available at latimes.com/babylon

Would you consider the "freeze for freeze" proposal in which Iran would stop adding new uranium-enrichment centrifuges in exchange for no new sanctions during a period of negotiations?

Both the incentives package and the Iranian package have valuable elements in common. If we concentrate on the common ground in the two packages we can initiate a very serious dialogue. . . . Otherwise the misleading and aimless preconditions are somehow wasting time and cannot lead to settling any problems.

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Why the rush toward mastering the enrichment of uranium?

Basically, why on Earth should we deprive ourselves of this legal right within the Nonproliferation Treaty? . . . Why do some countries illegally enjoy more rights for themselves and exert various pressures against other nations and deprive them from their inalienable rights?

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Iran often says it wants the security situation in Iraq to improve. What steps has it taken in that direction?

The Islamic Republic of Iran has broad-based contacts with all political and religious groups, both Sunni and Shiite factions and tendencies. These communications and relations are unbreakable. They are based on religious, cultural and historic links and common interests and have always been improving and evolving for the better.

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Israel is trying to entice Syria to break away from its partnership with Iran. Is this something that the Iranian government fears?

Iran-Syria relations are based on indisputable interests between the two nations and mutual respect and common interests. In our opinion, no marginal event can affect the strong ties and relations between the two countries.

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Does the Iranian government support the fragile peace in the Gaza Strip?

Lifting the siege of the Gaza Strip is the result of the oppressed Palestinians' steadfastness and resistance in order to liberate their lands from the occupier and also the result of the extremely weakened situation of the Zionist regime at the moment.

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What do you think about the news of a proposal floated in Washington to expand the U.S. interests section and diplomatic presence in Tehran?

Officially we said if there is such a request we will review it.

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Can you imagine how long the line for visa applications to travel to the U.S. will be?

[Laughing] Do not be in a rush. Do not go so fast.

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daragahi@latimes.com

Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Times staff writer Daragahi from Beirut.

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