Iran's deputy foreign minister, Muhammad Javad Larijani, came to New York last week for high-level talks at the UN on ending the Iran-Iraq war. In an interview, excerpted below, Mr. Larijani spoke about the war, relations with the United States, and the impending withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. There is some confusion about Iran's position on UN Resolution 598 (calling for a ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq war).
... Our logic and our position is very simple: We say that Resolution 598, because of its weaknesses, could be the beginning of a pressure process against Iran. Because of its strong and good points, it could be the beginning of an authentic peace process ... The implementation plan of the Secretary-General signals toward an authentic peace process, so we endorse the implementation plan.
Some people say the Iranian position is a delaying tactic. Iran is delaying what? Delaying an embargo resolution? Is an embargo against Iran the main objective of 598?
If peace is the objective, then we are working with the Secretary-General.
... The letter of [Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar] Velayati of Feb. 28 is a valid letter, totally authentic, and it shows our position written carefully. It means as far as the implementation of 598 is concerned, our position is tantamount to acceptance. It means what it says. It means that if you really want to implement 598, you don't have any difficulty from Iran.... Why try to read our minds?
What do you think of the agreement just reached in Geneva to sign an accord on Afghanistan?
The mujahideen were not a part of the Geneva accord, [but] they are the main reason that the Russians are leaving. Then who can sign something on behalf of them? These are the weaknesses of the Geneva agreement.
If the result of these talks is really the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, regardless of anything else, I think this is very positive.
It is very difficult to imagine any of the [Najibullah] group which is now in power [remaining] in the country ... They are the symbol of people who invited foreign troops into the country, so they don't have any internal decency, and are thought of as the cause of this huge trouble for the nation of Afghanistan.
We look to the mujahideen as the true representatives of the people. We will support them all the way ... if we will be of any help [in the formation of an interim government], definitely we don't have any hesitations. Our position is well known: The mujahideen should be the major part of any interim or permanent government.
Iran sent some victims of recent chemical attacks to the United States for treatment. Do you think this opens a new phase in the relationship between the US and Iranian governments?
When I went to the hospital, I saw so much affection on the part of the nurses and the medical staff ... we are very thankful to the hospital.
We think that anybody who helped should be praised ... A number of countries helped. I think the US should work in that direction more.
Unfortunately, the US State Department spokesman made some allegations against Iran [saying that Iran may have also used chemical weapons]. They are very negative things. These are a very open help for a criminal aggressor, which doesn't enjoy any international reputation or credibility. The hostility of American policy toward our revolution is mainly leading the administration to take these kind of positions.
Iran's Foreign Minister, Mr. Ali Akbar Velayati, said recently that although Iran had the military capability to use chemical weapons, Iran has not and never will use chemical weapons. Can this be considered a formal pledge?
It is true: This is our position. But there is a main question - what kind of deterrent should we use to prevent Iraqis from using chemical warfare? There are only two, political or military. ... Unfortunately, the Security Council is showing deaf ears to all the calls, showing inconceivable ignorance ... so we are entitled to think of deterrent measures because the political deterrent activities are not enough.
But what Dr. Velayati said, it is our constant policy. It is like a country who has the nuclear capability but he wants not to use it at all: as a deterrent measure maybe they have the capability but they are not going to use it.