September 19, 2010 -- CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us.
HILLARY CLINTON: It's a pleasure. Thank you for being here in Jerusalem.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: How are the talks going? Are you down beyond the sort of photo-op stage. Are you into core issues?
HILLARY CLINTON: We really are, Christiane. And I have to say, it's been impressive to see the two leaders engage so seriously so early on what are the core issues. But these talks are already into very sensitive and important areas.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: President Obama has said that given the talks going in a constructive way, Israel should continue the moratorium on settlements. Do you believe that that will happen?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, that certainly is our hope. Now we've also said that we'll support an agreement that is reached between the parties. It took a lot of political capital for Prime Minister Netanyahu to achieve this moratorium. It had never been done before. And I, rightly I think, gave him credit for it about a year ago here in Jerusalem. At the same time, it's been in effect for the time that it was set for and the talks are just starting. So we are working hard to make sure there remains a conducive atmosphere to constructive thought.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Is there any flexibility you can see, any creative diplomacy that anybody's talked about, to get through this hurdle?
HILLARY CLINTON: They need to keep talking. And each party-- both Israelis and Palestinians need to figure out a way to make that happen.
And I think this President has said, "We are committed. We will stay with you. We will do everything we can to facilitate that." At the end of the day this has to be an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Who do you think is making the biggest psychological leap, the biggest leap of heart?
HILLARY CLINTON: I think both are. You know, Israel today is under tremendous security pressure and they can look over the horizon and see even more when you've got a country like Iran standing by saying, "We want to wipe you from the face of the Earth and annihilate you." I mean that does concentrate your mind.
And on the Palestinian side, "We've been down this road-- you know, we're-- we're trying to build our own institutions of a new state. You know, can we really afford to not do it?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Is it the U.S. position to press President Abbas to stay even if the moratorium is lifted?
HILLARY CLINTON: We don't want either party to leave these negotiations or to do anything that causes the other to leave the negotiations.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Are you urging President Abbas to stay?
HILLARY CLINTON: We are having very-- you know, very clear conversations with each. And I will certainly-- urge him to continue in the negotiations just as I've urged-- Prime Minister Netanyahu. And as President Obama has said, to continue the moratorium.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Do you believe you've convinced some of the skeptics, for instance the Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who you also spoke with. Have you convinced him that this two state solution, this protest, is the right one?
HILLARY CLINTON: I don't claim to convince someone whose views are are very different from that position. I think that he and many Israelis are quite skeptical, just as many Palestinians are quite skeptical. But I asked them, "What's the alternative? I mean what is the alternative?"
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Can we move on to Iran? Can I first ask you, what is your reaction to the release of Sarah Shourd?
HILLARY CLINTON: Great relief. I-- I was so-- so pleased that this young woman was able to come home. I want-- the other two young Americans-- Josh and Shane, to come home as well. But as a mother, I've met with their mothers and I just can't even imagine how painful the experience that they themselves have had inside prison, but then of course the pain that their families feel. So thankfully she'll-- she'll be given a chance to be reunited now.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Will there be any further talks at any time soon on the nuclear issue? Is there any date, any agreement from the Iranians to meet in a P5 Plus One?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, we thought that they were open to that. And we certainly had-- indicated our readiness to meet. Now at the United Nations next week I will be meeting with my counterpart for the P5 Plus One to discuss where matters stand, but as we're speaking right now I know of no meeting that the Iranians have agreed to attend. CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: On the one hand you say that you're grateful that Iran released Sarah Shourd as a humanitarian gesture. You need to do diplomacy through the P5 Plus One on the nuclear issue. On the other hand, in your speech and in your comments at the Council on Foreign Relations, you said that it's a country morphing into a military dictatorship. Explain that?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, Christiane, I'm concerned about what I see going on. And I am of course grateful and appreciative that Sarah was released and want to see not only her two compatriots but other Americans who are held without cause released as well. And we are concerned about the nuclear program.
But what we also see happening is increasing power exercised by the military, by the revolutionary guard and by other militia and military entities. And I know that that's a concern of people inside Iran. We read reports coming out of Iran. And it is something that would be even more distressing for the Iranian people.
You know, I have grave disagreements with the Iranian Revolution, but the early advocates of it said this would be a republic. It would be an Islamic republic, but it would be a republic. Then we saw a very flawed election and we've seen the elected officials turn for the military to enforce their power.
And a lot of Iranians, even those who stayed, even those who were originally sympathetic are starting to say, "This is not what we signed up for." And I can only hope that there will be some effort inside Iran, by responsible civil and religious leaders to, take hold of the apparatus of the state.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Let me ask you what the United States can do, as you say, to support the people of Iran? You know, during the Cold War, as you know so well, the Helsinki Accords was the framework by which the United States pressed the Soviet Union on human rights while still negotiating on arms control.
HILLARY CLINTON: Right. CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR:
Why is it the United States today does not have a framework or any sustained intention of pressing Iran on human rights while still trying to figure out the nuclear situation? We keep hearing that officials don't want to upset the diplomatic apple cart?
HILLARY CLINTON: No, I don't think that's it at all. I-- I mean-- we have spoken out on human rights. We have done the best we could to support those inside through trying to open up access to telecommunications. So we are very much in favor of and speaking out on behalf of individual cases and more generally the human political civil rights of Iranians.
And, remember, when President Obama came into office he extended his hand. I mean very clearly and quite unprecedentally to the Iranian leadership and said, "We would be willing to have a diplomatic engagement with you." I think the sanctions that have been endorsed and now are being implemented by the international community, you know, demonstrates our engagement because, you know, we've said to the Iranians all along, "We have two tracks. We have the pressure track and we have the engagement, diplomatic track." And we still remain open to that diplomacy. But it's been very clear that the Iranians don't want to engage with us. And the final point I would make is, you know, we are trying to be effective as we help those inside Iran. We get-- and I meet with Iranian experts. And we get different advice. We get some who say, you know, "Full speed ahead. Don't worry about it. Just say whatever you have to say." Others who say, "Don't do that. This is a very delicate balance." So we try to walk that line.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Does it concern you that so many Iranians after the election -- so many of the protesters -- really weren't sure whether the Obama administration was on their side and to this day remain unsure. Iranians inside Iran?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I-- I don't know how that could be because we made it very clear that we supported the legitimate efforts of the Iranian people to protest and demonstrate against a flawed election. We made it very clear to the Iranians that we thought that they had not only conducted an illegitimate election, but counter to their own stated and professed laws and constitution.
So we made it very clear. But we also knew that the worst thing for those protesting was for them to be seen as stooges of the United States. So, again, what we've tried to do is to stand up for the human rights of every person, most particularly those brave Iranians, you know, lawyers and activists and others, who are standing up and saying to the regime, "No, you have to fulfill the promises you yourselves have made about what we should expect," without undermining their efforts.
Now it's very delicate and I-- you know, we-- you know, some days we get it right and some days maybe we could do better. But our bottom line is, you know, we think the Iranian people deserve so much more than what they are now being given. And we are worried about the direction we see Iran headed.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: The sanctions -- President Ahmadinejad has said the sanctions are, quote, "Pathetic -- worse than a used handkerchief." Do you think they have any possibility of actually affecting their nuclear behavior?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, first, I think they have-- and-- and will continue to affect their behavior. In fact, you know-- former President Rafsanjani said just the other day, "These are serious. They need to be taken seriously." He was in-- in effect criticizing his government because of comments like that.
That yes, they're biting. And we hear that from many in the region and beyond. And in fact the information we're getting is that the Iranian regime is quite worried about the impact on their banking system, on their economic growth because they've already encountered some tough economic times. And this is, you know, making it more costly.
Sanctions are a tool. They're not an end in themselves. And, you know, we would very much like to see Iran return to the P5 Plus One forum where they were last present a year ago October, to talk about their nuclear program. We would like to see them once again permit full IAEA inspections.
We would like to see them taking the offer that has been made by us and others to talk about a broad range of issues like their support for terrorism. Hamas, Hezbollah, et cetera. So we stand ready to engage with Iran. And that's really the message that I would like to send to the Iranians. Is that you know, there's a way out of the sanctions. There's a way out of increasing opprobrium from the international community.
And there should be a way out of this takeover of their political system and a threat to their dual system of elected and clerical leadership, because when you empower a military as much as they have to rely on them to put down legitimate protests and demonstrations, you create a momentum and unleash forces that you do not know where they will end up. And so we think that now is the time for the Iranian leadership to engage seriously.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for joining us.
AMANPOUR: Mr. president thank you for joining us. The United States is very pleased that you've released Sarah Shourd, and the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has said that she wants the other two, Josh and Shane, to be released also, a humanitarian gesture.
AHMADINEJAD: It is true that the Islamic Republic of Iran took a humanitarian measure and released one of the three individuals who entered our borders Ms. Sarah Shourd. This was a huge humanitarian gesture.
Now, you may be aware that eight Iranians are illegally being detained in the United States. So I believe that it would not be misplaced to ask that the U.S. government should make a humanitarian gesture to release the Iranians who were illegally arrested and detained here in the United States.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, I understand that the Iranians, many of them, have been convicted of various sanctions-busting and arms-busting. Are you saying you'll holding the two Americans as hostages for the release of the Iranians here?
AHMADINEJAD: No. But how would you know that those Iranians are criminals? Are you a judge?
AMANPOUR: May I show you something?
(Laura Fattal, mother of Josh Fattal) We thank you for bringing Sarah home, but now it is time for bringing Josh and Shane home. And we urge you, again, with your humanitarianism of the Islamic Republic of Iran to show the same compassion you had for Sarah to bring Josh and Shane home (Cindy hickey, mother of Shane Bauer) Last May when you were here, you talked about being a friend to the American people. Shane and Josh are American people. Their families are American people. Please release both of them back to their families.
AHMADINEJAD: We are saddened that there are individuals in prison and it makes us unhappy when people are in prison anywhere in the world, whether in Iran or in the United States or elsewhere. We want people to be free and not to suffer. But at the end of the day, there's a law that determines who stays in prison and who does not.
AMANPOUR: And do you think they'll be released any time soon? Would you intervene like you did for Sarah?
AHMADINEJAD: I would give a recommendation, but the cases have to be examined. They violated the law.
AMANPOUR: Let's move on to the nuclear issue. The United States, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton told me that they would like to have a discussion with Iran in P5 plus One over the nuclear issue. Before Ramadan Iran said it was looking to have another meeting. But there's been no further word on it. Are you going to have a meeting with the United States in the P 5 plus one on the nuclear issue?
AHMADINEJAD: On this trip?
AMANPOUR: Anytime soon.
AHMADINEJAD: Yes. we will have a plan to discuss things, to discuss issues. We've always been ready to discuss issues as long as there within the legal framework and based on principles of justice and respect. but having said that all our nuclear reactor activities are being controlled by cameras, the material that is moved is weighed and it's examined and controlled so as far as the IAEA supervision is concerned there's no blockage of that supervision.
Now some of these individuals have released our nuclear information. Information that we have provided which is illegal. The IAEA is required by its statute to protect that information not to release it. And plus the IAEA is aware of several other violations that they have permitted.
Now we believe that here in the United States is pressing the IAEA to take a political position on the issue. Once the IAEA does that it's work becomes worthless and ineffective.
AMANPOUR: Sanctions? The United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, everybody's put sanctions on Iran. Are you surprised that they were so uniform?
AHMADINEJAD: It is meaningless to us.
AMANPOUR: Well, it is interesting that you say this.
AMANPOUR: The former president of Iran, Rafsanjani, has given a speech in which he urged you not to take the sanctions as a joke, to take them seriously. And he says that they are the most tough sanctions that Iran has ever experienced. Do you consider them a joke or do you take them seriously?
AHMADINEJAD: In Iran, people are free to make statements, to say what they think. There are no restrictions on what people say.
AMANPOUR: No, but the question is, do you take the sanctions seriously, or do you consider them a joke, ineffective, not serious?
AHMADINEJAD: We do take sanctions seriously, but taking it seriously is different from believing that they are effective. These are two different issues. We consider this and have reported it as a serious violation of international law. it was illegal. It was wrong. they wronged the people of Iran and insulting them and these sanctions will definitively mark a new level of progress in our economy. We have turned sanctions around and created opportunities out of it. Now, this doesn't mean certainly that we take it seriously, but it does not mean that it -- has a negative influence on our economy because it does not.
AMANPOUR: But this time, in fact, people are saying that it is having a negative influence. Businessmen will not be able to do enough trade. Shipping is going to be difficult. Insuring ships is going to be difficult....
AHMADINEJAD: None of this is a problem. I want to stress this is not a problem. If you want to say it's effective, why not wait for the next 6 months or a year and to see with your own eyes whether there are effects or not. And I tell you there are none.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you about human rights. You know the lady Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who was sentenced to stoning. Her sentence was lifted. What do you personally think of stoning? Do you think that's an appropriate sentence for anybody in today's modern Iran?
AHMADINEJAD: Why do you think that the issue of one lady in a village in Iran called Miss Mohammadi should suddenly become such a big issue for American officials?
AMANPOUR: I'm surprised that you don't think that its likely to be a big issue and it's not just American officials it's all over the world it was international
AHMADINEJAD: Allow me! Allow me!
AMANPOUR: I want to know what your view is on stoning. do you think its appropriate and fitting for a modern country and a nuclear, want to be nuclear power.
AHMADINEJAD: Why don't you finish your statement and then allow me to speak?
AMANPOUR: I'm asking your opinion.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, if you want me to speak, if you want to lecture me, you can, but that's fine...
AHMADINEJAD: I wouldn't be offended, I have a lot of patience.
AMANPOUR: OK. I'd like your opinion on stoning.
AHMADINEJAD: first, what I want to say is that Miss Mohammadi was never sentenced to stoning. This was news that was produced and incorrect, and regrettably, U.S. media affected -- was infected by U.S. politicians to make a piece of news out of it.
AMANPOUR: But the Iranian government lifted the sentence...
AHMADINEJAD: Allow me. Allow me. When I represent the Iranian government how come is it that I am unaware of what you are telling me and that you should be aware of it. This is an issue that is being considered. It is still being processed. Given that there was no sentence of stoning issued in the first place this was the news that was made up. the propaganda behind it was big and then those same murderers of people become supporters of human rights.
Now this is ancient method, an ancient method that needs to change. Its natural, anybody can have an opportunity over an issue and propagate about it. But we are opposed to the way United States manages the world, manages Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
AMANPOUR: Since we're talking about this, since you've been the President executions in Iran have increased by four times. Did you know that?
AHMADINEJAD: That is not true at all. Not at all. Not at all.
AMANPOUR: So you deny that? Independent- human rights groups say that....
AHMADINEJAD: How do they know? They haven't come to Iran.
AMANPOUR: Can I move on to ask you about the leaders of the opposition? Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi, their offices have been raided recently. Mr. Mousavi's computers have been taken and the prosecutor general in Tehran is saying a trial, and a case is being built against them and that they will go to trial, if and once public opinion is readied. Is that something that you approve of? That you agree with? Do you know that a case is being prepared against Mr. Mousavi and or Mr. Karroubi?
AHMADINEJAD: If they wanted to build a case they should have done it last year.
AMANPOUR: So, you dont think it is happening.....
AHMADINEJAD: I don't think it is even necessary. They were free. They're still free. They are going on with their daily lives.
AMANPOUR: Why did he say that then that the trial will take place?
AHMADINEJAD: Who said? Who said this?
AMANPOUR: Mr. Jafari Dolatabadi. A trial would take place when it will be in the interest of the ruling establishment and once public opinion is ready. Do you accept that? Do you agree with and approve it?
AHMADINEJAD: I do not get involved in the business of the judiciary. The judge is independent. But I think that when you translate these statements you've probably made, or interpreted and you've made a mistake in analyzing it. I am unaware of the details of what people do. The judiciary is aware of these details. But I can tell you, you gave me a piece of news, and I am telling you, that if a case was to be built it should have been done last year.
AMANPOUR: What did you think when Fidel Castro said Mr. President, stop attacking the Jews. Stop denying the Holocaust. Stop being anti-Semitic. Fidel Castro, Cuba, is a friend of Iran?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, shouldn't he be free to say what he wants? He's free to say what he wants. We've never been anti semitic, when was I anti semitic-- the Jews live in Iran, like every other person who lives in Iran freely....
AMANPOUR: you know Hillary Clinton has told me, and she's told others that the United States is very concerned about the the increasing militarization of the Iranian government the revolutionary guard is very involved not just in its military activities but in politics in economics and business. that they're cracking down on the people as you know there are still hundreds of election protestors in jail. Many of them without evidence, without a trial. Why the militarization of the Iranian system? Why?
AHMADINEJAD: Don't you think that Ms. Clinton should think a little bit before she makes statements of such nature. I think Ms Clinton is a very respected woman but she should really gather more correct information to base her statements on accurate information.
AMANPOUR: I have to ask you this one last question// I just want to know if there is any chance that you will respond to the invitation of the Obama administration to engage with the United States?
AHMADINEJAD: I invited him to engage, to be engaged with us. I was the one who started the invitation.
Amanpour: well he sent a letter, he talked about it publically....
Ahmadinejad: I was the one who started the invitation. I was the first to send a letter of invitation. And he never responded to the letter. I announced in the United Nations that we are ready to talk in the United Nations in the presence of others. I didn't receive an answer. Iran was the country that released Sarah. We haven't even received a note from the United States on that.
Iran was prepared to talk, but under fair conditions and respectful conditions. If somebody thinks that they can, like, order us around or rule us, and call it talks that wouldn't work. But if they are ready to sit down, respect the law, be fair and just, we are always prepared to talk.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President thank you very much.