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Iran/U.S.: President Bush Talks To Radio Farda

U.S. President George W. Bush (AFP) This is a full transcript of an exclusive interview with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House on March 19, conducted by Radio Farda correspondent Parichehr Farzam. Topics included U.S. policy toward Iran, Iranian nuclear ambitions, a Russian proposal to enrich uranium that would be supplied to Iran, and missile defense. (Radio Farda is a Persian-language, joint broadcasting venture between Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America.)

Radio Farda: At the beginning of Noruz, the Persian New Year, what message do you wish to share with the people of Iran, especially with women as well as with the young generation?

George W. Bush: First of all, the United States of America wishes everybody a Happy New Year. Secondly, [the] people of the United States respect the great Iranian history and culture. We have great respect for the people, and we've got problems with the government. We have problems with the government because the government has been threatening, has made decisions that --and statements that -- really have isolated the people of Iran.

My message to the young in Iran is that someday your society will be free. And it will be a blessed time for you. My message to the women of Iran is that the women of America share your deep desire for children to grow up in a hopeful society and to live in peace.

Radio Farda: Speaking of the women of Iran, Mr. President, the majority of [the] population in Iran are women, and even in Iranian culture they are considered the foundation on which men deeply rely. Is there any plan, or could there be one, to promote and engage Iranian women in the U.S. into a unified and centralized movement for a free and democratic Iran?

Bush: Well, I think the people of Iran are going to have to come to the conclusion that a free country is in their interest. We, of course, support freedom movements all around the world. We are supporting a freedom movement on the Iranian border, in Iraq. We are promoting and helping the Iraqis develop a free society. By the way, a free Iraq will help the Iranians seek the blessings of a free society. There's no doubt in my mind that the women will be leading freedom movements in Iran and elsewhere, and the role of the United States is to provide moral support and other support without undermining their cause.

Iraq War And Its Effects

Radio Farda: Mr. President, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, what impact do you think a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis and the normalization of our relations with Iran would have on the security and political situation in Iraq-- and more generally on the whole Middle East?

Bush: I think that success in Iraq will, first of all, depend upon the Iraqis' desire to reconcile their differences and to live in peace, and that's happening. It's hard work to overcome a dictatorship like Saddam Hussein's, but nevertheless most Iraqis want to live in peace with their neighbor. Secondly, a peaceful Iraq will depend upon making it clear to the Iranians to stop exporting weapons from Iran into Iraq that arm militias and arm criminal gangs that cause there to be harm for the innocent people. Thirdly it's very important for the neighborhood to understand that the United States is committed to peace and that we won't be run out because of violence -- that we believe that we're there for the right reason, which is to promote freedom and peace.

There's a chance that the U.S. and Iran can reconcile their differences, but the government is going to have to make different choices. And one [such choice] is to verifiably suspend the enrichment of uranium, at which time there is a way forward.

And the Iranian people have got to understand that the United States is going to be firm in our desire to prevent the nation from developing a nuclear weapon, but reasonable in our desire to see to it that you have civilian nuclear power without enabling the government to enrich [uranium]. And the problem is that they have not told the truth in the past, and therefore it's very difficult for the United States and the rest of the world -- or much of the rest of the world -- to trust the Iranian government when it comes to telling the truth.

So I support the Russian proposal to provide Iran with enriched uranium to go into a civilian nuclear-power plant. There's a way forward. In other words, I don't know what the Iranian people believe about the United States, but they must believe that we have proposed a way forward that will yield to peace. And it's their government that is resisting these changes.

Words And Deeds

Radio Farda: Mr. President, as you and your allies launched a global initiative to combat nuclear terrorism, what do you think is your most important challenge? Is it to expose and stop this secretive ambition of the Iran's government to enrich uranium while assuring its citizens that their happiness and prosperity and peace is a benefit within their reach?

Bush: Sure absolutely. Well, one thing is to reiterate my belief that the Iranians should have a civilian nuclear-power program. It's in their right to have it. The problem is that the government cannot be trusted to enrich uranium because, one, they've hidden programs in the past and they may be hiding one now -- who knows? And secondly, they've declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people -- some -- in the Middle East. And that's unacceptable in the United States and it's unacceptable to the world. But what is acceptable to me is to work with a nation like Russia to provide the fuel so that the plant can go forward. Which therefore shows that the Iranian government doesn't need to learn to enrich.

My only point to the Iranian people is that we want you to be able to realize your sovereign rights. The government has been duplicitous to the world -- very few people trust your government -- and if the government changes its behavior, there's a better way forward for the Iranian people.

Radio Farda: Mr. President, while democracy is everyone's rightful way of life, in Iran, on the other hand, there is no respect for the basic rights of Iranian citizens, there is no rule of law, and there is certainly no freedom of speech. Do you believe the people of Iran stand a chance against this regime to bring about a positive change anytime soon, with your support?

Bush: Well, I would like very much for the Iranian people to realize that a society based upon rule of law and free speech and free worship of religion -- there is nothing I would like to see more than a society in which young girls can grow up to realize their dreams, with a good education system. You know, this regime, however, is one that sometimes when people express themselves in an open way there can be serious punishment. This is a regime that says they have elections but they get to decide who's on the ballot, which is not a free and fair election. So this is a regime and a society that's got a long way to go. But the people of Iran can rest assured that the United States -- whether I'm president or [it's] the next president -- will strongly support their desires to live in a free society.

Missile Defense

Radio Farda: Mr. President, you said many times that the proposed U.S. missile-defense system in the Czech [Republic] and Poland is to defend America and its European allies from attack by rogue states such as Iran. But [there is] still some disagreement between the United States and Russia. Are you optimistic that [you can] solve the problems?

Bush: It's interesting you ask that question. We intend to move forward with the Czech Republic and Poland for the good of NATO. Obviously it'd make life easier if the Russians and the United States cooperated in such a missile defense. Condi Rice and Bob Gates -- Secretary Gates and Secretary Rice -- were in Russia this past couple of days talking about the very subject -- as to whether or not we can find grounds to cooperate.

The missile systems -- defense systems -- would not be aimed at Russia, they'd be aimed at nations that would try to hold the free world hostage with a nuclear weapon. And so I'm optimistic -- I'm cautiously optimistic. I don't know whether we can find common ground, but we're trying to find common ground. And the first step is to make the attempt.

Radio Farda: Thank you so much, Mr. President, for your time.