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Khatami questions India's counsel to Iran

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SECULAR OUTLOOK: The former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami comes out after visiting the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in New Delhi on Friday.
SECULAR OUTLOOK: The former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami comes out after visiting the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in New Delhi on Friday.

Diplomatic Correspondent

`The multiple crises in West Asia has been imposed on the region from outside'

  • `The goal of the West was to ensure the supply of cheap oil'
  • `Why should Palestinians pay for the Jewish Holocaust?'

    NEW DELHI: India, which was not a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, had chosen to advise Tehran to respect the NPT, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said during an address at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) on Saturday.

    "We are close friends of India, but there are some problems," Mr. Khatami said during an animated discussion with the audience, which lasted over one-and-a-half hours at Sapru House.

    Stressing that Iran "did not feel any threat" from a nuclear India, he said nobody in Iran was saying that Tehran should give up its legitimate rights under the NPT to develop nuclear energy. There was a consensus within the nation on the issue of going ahead with civilian nuclear energy plans. However, there were differences of opinion about how to achieve this goal like giving more time to negotiations.

    Arguing that another "large crisis" should be prevented in the region, he, however, said this did not mean that Iran would give up its legitimate rights under the NPT.

    According to him, the multiple crises in West Asia had been imposed from outside. There was no history of anti-Semitism in the region and Christians, Jews and Muslims had lived peacefully together.

    He said West Asia was important because the Western world needed energy sources and the region was the largest source of oil and gas. "This is, maybe, the most geo-strategically important region in the world."

    The goal of the West was to ensure the supply of cheap oil by creating crises in the region. Pointing to the role of Israel as the defender of Western interests in the area, he remarked, "We exported oil to them and they exported crisis to us."

    According to him, the American perception of itself as the "self-made leader" of the world stemmed from 18th century prejudice, when the West believed that its civilisation was superior to all others on the globe.

    "They [Western leaders] have to accept there are other civilisations as well," he said, calling on members of the developing world to strike a balance between taking advantage of Western achievements while "not forgetting about our identity."

    Though he admitted that Iran was happy that the Americans had gotten rid of their "enemies" in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said the U.S. could not solve the problem of terrorism.

    The unilateral occupation of Iraq did not provide any solution to the country's problems. Contrary to what the Americans had been saying, Iran would enjoy having peace and stability.

    Referring to the Nazi Holocaust, he said that both anti-Semitism and Fascism were produced in the West. "Many people other than the Jews were murdered in the Holocaust," he pointed out.

    "Why should we concentrate only on the Holocaust of the Jews? Why should the Palestinians pay for this?" he wanted to know. If Holocaust meant ethnic cleansing, then the world should condemn what was happening in the Palestinian territories. The Holocaust could not be an excuse to create "other Holocausts."

    Asked about the recent killings of Iranian security personnel by Jundullah, a Pakistan-based terrorist outfit, the former President said that it was a "great mistake" to strengthen extremist activity.

    However, he said that he was not condemning any particular government.

    According to him, the presence of American troops in any country was a threat to that nation. Pakistan, he said, was one such country. He pointed out that the U.S. also had fleets in the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea, many major bases in West Asia and tens of thousands of troops in Iraq.

    "The region should be free of any alien existence," he stressed, adding North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) troops to the list of American security personnel. "We have to think of our independence; free from foreign domination."

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