By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
NEW DELHIâ€“Just a few hours before the United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed to impose new, more stringent sanctions against Iran because of its uranium enrichment program, former President of Iran Sayyid Mohammad Khatami was arguing against it.
â€œThere was no need to refer the Iranian nuclear program to the UN Security Council. Without threat or use of power, we can solve this problem in a peaceful manner,â€ Khatami asserted while addressing a media conclave (March 23) here.
Describing the United Statesâ€™ approach as â€œunilateral,â€ Khatami said: â€œPressure can make the situation worse.â€
Alluding to the US role in pushing sanctions against Iran at UN, Khatami emphasized that the Iranian nuclear impasse could be resolved within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) through dialogue and negotiations.
â€œIran should not be deprived of peaceful atomic energy. We donâ€™t want to have nuclear weapons,â€ he said. â€œIran is ready to sit at the negotiating table. It requires no precondition. It only requires goodwill,â€ Khatami said.
Displaying Iranâ€™s willingness to cooperate with other countries of the world, particularly the West, while speaking at another gathering, Khatami laid stress on its being equally essential for Arab countries to retain their identity.
â€œEarlier, we considered only two options: reject the West or dedicate ourselves to the West. Now, the times are changing. We have to take advantages of the achievements made by the West without forgetting our own identity. There has to be a balance between East and West,â€ Khatami said.
President Khatami was the key speaker at a roundtable discussion organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs (March 24).
Blaming the United States for the â€œprejudiceâ€ it held in regarding itself as â€œself-made ruler of world, who can dominate anywhere in the world,â€ Khatami also acknowledged that other countries of the West, including European ones, are gradually displaying less prejudice.
Dismissing the rhetoric raised about the Middle East crises being a clash of civilizations, Khatami said: â€œIf we analyze any war, there are political or economic reasons behind it.â€
Blaming the West, particularly the US, for the crises in the region, he said: â€œBe it anti-Semitism or anti-Fascism, they are the same. Both have been created in the West.â€
Acknowledging that â€œIran is located in the heart of crisis in Middle East region,â€ Khatami said: â€œCrisis has been imposed from outside. The powers seeking to gain hold here want this region to be always crisis ridden.â€ â€œThis area is the largest source of energy. No superpower can exist without dominance over this region. Thus all these years we have exported oil to them and they have exported crises to us. They (the West) want this area to be crisis-ridden, so that we remain locked in wars and import arms from them,â€ Khatami said.
While strongly criticizing the countries responsible for fueling conflict and crises in the region, Khatami laid stress on Iranâ€™s willingness to solve the crises through dialogue and negotiations. â€œOil crisis has to be changed to oil development,â€ he said.
â€œWe have to find a solution,â€ Khatami said, giving emphasis to there being the need of paying â€œserious attentionâ€ towards â€œhope and development.â€ Laying stress on the need to give greater importance to â€œdialogue and co-existence,â€ Khatami said: â€œI recognize any kind of pact that would bring countries close to each other.â€
Criticizing the United Statesâ€™ Iraq policy, Khatami said: â€œUS policies will not solve any crisis. The solution is not unilateral occupation of Iraq. The truth is that America never stopped terrorism, they are spreading it.â€ â€œThat is the problem we are facing now.â€
When questioned later on positive developments in Iranâ€™s ties with Saudi Arabia, Khatami told this correspondent that the first major step in this direction was taken during his presidency (1997 to 2005).
â€œIran and Saudi Arabia inked a strategic pact during my presidency,â€ Khatami said. The visit of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Saudi Arabia earlier this month, regarded as a sign of their coming together, in Khatamiâ€™s opinion is continuation what he had earlier contributed to.
The pact inked in 2001 was viewed as â€œhistoricâ€ as it marked the coming together of the two major powers. From Iranâ€™s side, Khatamiâ€™s landmark visits to Saudi Arabia (1999 and 2002) played a crucial role in repairing the bilateral ties, which had suffered after Iranâ€™s 1979 Islamic revolution.
At present, Khatami is head of the Tehran-based International Center for Dialogue Among Cultures and Civilizations.
While here in India, Khatami met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also. At the media conclave, during his address the Indian Prime Minister praised Khatami and quoted his past statements. Singh said: â€œI have the highest regard for his (Khatamiâ€™s) wisdom, his scholarship and his statesmanship. He is a great citizen of the world, a great leader of the Iranian people and a great friend of India. It is pertinent that at a conclave like this we recall his wise words at the U.N. Conference on Dialogue Among Civilizations in September 2000. It was a dialogue that he had initiated. I recall his saying that: â€˜The ultimate goal of dialogue among civilizations is not dialogue in itself, but attaining empathy and compassion.â€ â€œI fully endorse these sentiments. Today they have acquired renewed relevance in international affairs,â€ Singh said.
Khatamiâ€™s India-visit may not have been possible had the Indian government been against it. Singhâ€™s comments and timing of Khatamiâ€™s visit sends a significant diplomatic message that New Delhi doesnâ€™t want its relations with Tehran to be negatively affected by other international developments.