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Published on February 16, 2010
Interview given by Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, to the French radio “Europe 1” (excerpts)

Paris, February 12 2010

Q. – President Ahmadinejad is permitting only images and the official version of his cause. There was violence again yesterday, and clashes with brave opposition forces. Are these regular clashes taking Iran to the brink of civil war?

THE MINISTER – I think that these demonstrations and their alleged extent, which we’re not seeing because with the total blackout there’s no news coming out of Iran any more, constitute in themselves a political crisis.

Is this what is making President Ahmadinejad react in such an extreme way? Probably, we’ll know more in a few days.

Q. – But when will it be time to help the reformers inside Iran?

THE MINISTER – We’re helping them by stating what true facts we can, what is reaching us and what we analyse ourselves. We’re helping them a lot by maintaining firm positions in the face of the potential development of a nuclear weapon which we refuse to accept.

Q. – But the West knows what’s going on, it can see, and we get the impression it daren’t say anything. So at what point and without interfering in Iran’s affairs…

THE MINISTER – If we can’t interfere then there’s nothing to say.

Q. – No but will you all raise your voices in protest so you’re heard inside Iran?

THE MINISTER – I believe that France, along with the rest of the world for that matter, has voiced very strong protests, heard loud and clear.

We’re working first on sanctions – you may think this will serve no purpose. I believe they will be very useful. There have already been Security Council resolutions, with sanctions. The fourth resolution, as you know, requires agreement among the permanent members and a majority in the Security Council. This latest one is now being worked on in New York. Of course it’s essential to have the backing of the Chinese.

Q. – The Quai d’Orsay – that is, your staff – said yesterday that a resolution couldn’t be introduced this month, i.e. in February or at the beginning of March. Where do things stand? Is this showing realism on your part or defeatism?

THE MINISTER – Defeatism? Come on, we’re the ones with the most drive! There’s absolutely no defeatism, but we’ve got to succeed.

If the resolutions with sanctions aren’t adopted then there’s no point in trying to be clever about it.

Q. – But who is against them? China? Turkey? Brazil?

THE MINISTER – Who knows! Let’s be calm, we’ll see. These people have to be persuaded. China certainly. We had a meeting last week with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Yang.

We’re working with the Chinese, Russians, Americans and British and, as you said, a number of countries which, at least on occasion, somewhat admire Mr Ahmadinejad, i.e. Brazil, Lebanon and her neighbour, Syria. But Syria isn’t in the Security Council.

Q. – But didn’t President Ahmadinejad assert that Iran was capable of producing uranium enriched to over 80%?

THE MINISTER – In other words the level at which you can make a bomb.

Q. – And who wouldn’t? The White House doesn’t believe it. For Europe and France, is the Iranian President bluffing?

THE MINISTER – We’re used to the sabre-rattling, but still it’s dangerous to say such a thing. It obviously adds to the extraordinarily dangerous tensions in the Middle East.

The United States does not believe any more than we do that Iran is capable today of enriching uranium to 80%. And to say “if we wanted to, we’d build a nuclear bomb” obviously adds to the dangerousness, to the resentment in neighbouring countries, Arab countries, and obviously adds a number of things even more dangerous, i.e. the issue of arming Hezbollah specifically, but also Hamas.

Q. – What type of tougher sanctions are you thinking of?

THE MINISTER – Economic sanctions. We’re trying not to propose sanctions which would hurt the Iranian people who are rightly opposed to the government – more than 60 to 70% according to our information. (…)./.

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