NEW YORK — Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that nuclear talks between his country and Western powers were being “disrupted” by “a phantom third-party,” and that his country had no desire to challenge the US with a nuclear weapons program.
“Each time that the two sides came close to some kind of understanding, mutual understanding, somehow it was disrupted… A phantom third-party has disrupted this,” he said at an event Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“But we have not lost hope,” he added.
Salehi, a longtime senior Iranian nuclear negotiator and former Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, gave no details on who the third party might be.
Salehi indicated Iran was opposed to developing a nuclear weapon, saying such a weapon would “invite more threats” and pit the Islamic Republic against a better-armed United States.
Asked if an Iranian bomb might bring about greater regional stability, Salehi said, “No … Had Iran chosen to go nuclear in the sense of weaponization … it would attract more threats and invite more threats from the other side. Because suppose we wanted to go nuclear and manufacture one or two rudimentary bombs, who is on the other side? It’s not India and Pakistan. Seemingly, it is Iran and the US.”
He added: “Can we ever be on equal footing with the US in this regard? Does any rational person think to challenge the US? A country like Iran? Nuclear wise?” No, he said. “Certainly not.”
Iran, he said, is “a morally driven” political entity, he said, and a nuclear bomb “would go against its beliefs.” Moreover, he stated, Iran had good relations with what he said were its “15” neighbors; he did not mention Israel.
Salehi spoke out in support of the Assad regime, though he acknowledged that “some mistakes” were committed by the Syrian government in its response to an opposition-led insurgency against President Bashar Assad. Tens of thousands have been killed in 19 months of bloody conflict between government forces and the opposition.
“We wish [the Syrian government] had taken a better position… in the outbreak of the uprising,” Salehi said. “There were some mistakes committed, but this does not justify in any way interference from outside. We are not in a position… we never think, ever, to tell the president of a country, ‘Please step down.’”
The Iranian foreign minister seemed to draw a line at the suggestion that the Syrian regime might use chemical weapons. The Obama administration has stated that it regards the use of such weapons as its own red line that would justify military intervention on the part of the United States.
“If a country, any country, including Iran, uses weapons of mass destruction, that is the end of the validity, eligibility, legality of that government…. It is something that is not at all acceptable,” Salehi said.
“Therefore, if your hypothesis [that Syria might deploy chemical weapons in its battle with the insurgency], God forbid, ever materializes, I think nobody can justify it anymore; Nobody can go along with anybody who has been involved in such… inhuman acts.”