Iran Focus: London, Feb. 01 – The following are excerpts from an interview by French President Jacques Chirac with The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and the French publication Le Nouvel Observateur on Jan. 29, 2007 on the issue of Iran. During the interview, Chirac said he was not worried by the possibility of Iran obtaining one or two nuclear bombs. Iran Focus
London, Feb. 01 – The following are excerpts from an interview by French President Jacques Chirac with The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and the French publication Le Nouvel Observateur on Jan. 29, 2007 on the issue of Iran. During the interview, Chirac said he was not worried by the possibility of Iran obtaining one or two nuclear bombs. (Full text translated from French into English by the New York Times)
Q: Mr. President, you spoke earlier about nuclear energy. What are the possibilities for nuclear energy in the future, especially for emerging countries, a country like Iran, for example?
A: I would like to tell you there are first of all two different problems: nuclear power for electricity and nuclear technology for military purposes. What worries us in Iran, it’s not electro-nuclear (nuclear energy) as such but uranium enrichment. That’s what worries us. It is the refusal of Iran to accept the constraints of the I.A.E.A. [International Atomic Energy Agency”> and so to stop enriching uranium. It’s very dangerous. It’s very dangerous. One has to pay careful attention to that.
I would say that what is dangerous about this situation is not the fact of having a nuclear bomb having one, maybe a second one a little later, well, that’s not very dangerous. But what is very dangerous is proliferation. This means that if Iran continues in the direction it has taken and totally masters nuclear generated electricity, the danger does not lie in the bomb it will have, and which will be of no use to it.
Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel? It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed to the ground.
What is dangerous is proliferation. It is really very tempting for other countries in the region that have large financial resources, to say: “Well, we too, we’re going to do it. We’re going to help out others to do it.” Why wouldn’t Saudi Arabia do it? Why wouldn’t it help Egypt to do so as well? That is the danger. So one has to find a way to settle this problem. That, then, is the military nuclear issue.
Q: How far can the West go in threatening sanctions against Iran without risking reprisals, in particular on Lebanon?
A: This is not quite the topic of our interview. You know about my feelings about Lebanon, and there is no mystery about them. The question is, how can we impose sufficiently strong constraints on Iran. This is a difficult issue. One has to know what Iran can withstand or not. Iran has a regime that is still a bit fragile, a bit fragile. The last elections proved in particular that the president did not have all the authority one could have expected. This somewhat fragile regime is afraid. Afraid of what? Afraid of being contested.
What does it want? It wants to maintain the regime of the mullahs. To maintain the regime of the mullahs, it needs to not be contested or threatened by the international community, and the international community. Who is it? It’s the United States. So how much of Iran’s reaction is about wanting to control military nuclear technology, and how much is a desire to be recognized and respected by the international community and in particular the United States so as to avoid bad surprises that could at one moment or another destabilize the regime of the mullahs? This is a difficult question, because the Shiites are very particular people. The Shiites, since the beginning, are people who have a culture of minorities. They are minorities, they have a culture of minorities. They do not react like the Sunnis or the Europeans.
Q: But is there a fundamental dilemma in this world where we are at a moment where we, at a moment where we have to reduce carbon emissions, so electro-nuclear energy is very important especially for such powers such as India or China, but at the same time we live in a world where terrorism and proliferation are a major worry.
A: …No expert will claim there is a connection between electro-nuclear technology and the nuclear bomb. These are two things, two completely different technologies. Our entire problem with Iran that we evoked earlier, it is because Iran wants, through the enrichment of uranium, to make a nuclear bomb. But with electro-nuclear (nuclear energy), you have no way to get to a bomb. There is no risk. There is the I.A.E.A. that monitors this. There is control. There is no risk.
Q: There is no risk?
A: None, absolutely none. You cannot take an electrical nuclear plant and make a bomb. It just doesn’t work.
Q: So the question the technology of uranium enrichment…
A: It is uranium enrichment, in fact under very special conditions that are controlled by the I.A.E.A. The I.A.E.A. checks all the time to verify that they are not doing secret enrichment. But enrichment is of no use for electro-nuclear technology. No, there is no link between the two.