Iran's Chief Nuclear Negotiator: 'We Welcome New Sanctions'

'No Proof of an Iranian Military Nuclear Program'

SPIEGEL: President Obama has showed a willingness to make concessions, with his speech to mark the Iranian New Year and by offering to negotiate without preconditions. Do you not see the difference between Bush and Obama?

Jalili: We see a change, but no improvement in America's position.

SPIEGEL: The Iranian side, for its part, has not even made symbolic gestures. The fact is that the UN Security Council has imposed multiple sanctions on Tehran. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna has complained of a lack of cooperation from your side and it continues to have considerable doubts that your nuclear program is really only for civilian purposes. Do you mean to ignore all of that?

Jalili: Mohamed ElBaradei, the outgoing director general of the IAEA, has expressed in his latest report for the umpteenth time that there is no proof of an Iranian military nuclear program. As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we have not only responsibilities, but also rights. And that includes uranium enrichment.

SPIEGEL: Most of the international community believes Iran forfeited that right by keeping quiet about the existence of the Natanz nuclear facility and buying centrifuges on the black market.

Jalili: What do you mean by the international community? Do the 120 countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, which have defended Iran's rights, not belong to the international community?

SPIEGEL: But you can't claim that the IAEA is satisfied with Iran's cooperation. ElBaradei has just reminded Tehran again that it needs to intensify its efforts toward more transparency. Those are your responsibilities.

Jalili: What is correct is that we possess the right to enrich uranium, and we will never give up that right. The use of nuclear energy must be guaranteed for everyone. No one should possess nuclear weapons. The world needs to move toward this kind of disarmament, Washington too. Europe should not be a storage facility for nuclear warheads. I don't understand why Europe is worried about a few centrifuges in Iran and not about the nuclear weapons stored in Europe.

'We Don't Need a Bomb'

SPIEGEL: By now Iran has more than 1,400 kilograms (over 3,000 pounds) of low enriched uranium and more than 8,000 centrifuges. Experts say you have already reached "breakout capacity," in other words the capability to begin building a bomb.

Jalili: We don't need a bomb. It would neither be legitimate nor bring us additional security. Let me say it again: We are in favor of global disarmament. But we will continue to enrich uranium.

SPIEGEL: Is a suspension of uranium enrichment as a goodwill gesture also out of the question?

Jalili: You are familiar with the history and you know the bad experiences we have had. We already suspended uranium enrichment once for two and a half years. Afterward, the demand was that we stop all together.

SPIEGEL: If Tehran doesn't change its position during the talks in Switzerland, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has threatened you with very painful sanctions.

Jalili: What is new about that? And do you really believe there are sanctions that can hit us that hard? We've lived with sanctions for 30 years, and they can't bring a great nation like Iran to its knees. They do not frighten us. Quite the opposite -- we welcome new sanctions.

SPIEGEL: What could be so great about painful experiences?

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