Iran's Khamenei: Nuclear Program to Continue Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, says that Iran has no intention of stopping its uranium enrichment program, despite a U.N. incentives package to contain its nuclear goals. Iran's self-imposed deadline to respond to the offer arrives Tuesday.
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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said today that his country will go forward with its nuclear program. According to state television, Khamenei said this. Iran has made its own decision and in the nuclear case, God willing, with patience and power will continue its path.

The United Nations Security Council has given Iran until the end of this month to suspend its nuclear program. The U.S. wants the Security Council to act quickly and punish Iran if it doesn't comply. Tomorrow is Iran's self-imposed deadline for a formal response.

Azadeh Moaveni is a reporter for Time magazine. She's based in Tehran.

Iran has said that there will be a multi-faceted response to the UN's package of incentives to give up its nuclear ambitions. How do you read that phrase, multi-faceted response?

Ms. AZADEH MOAVENI (Reporter, Time magazine): Multi-faceted sounds from here as though it's going to involve lots of different negotiating points to stall for time. That's been the Iranian negotiating strategy for at least the last year. And getting fixated on details and parsing the fine points of the West's offer from Tehran's perspective is the best way to stretch these negotiations out as far as they can go. So it seems like it's just going to involve endless negotiating over small points.

SIEGEL: If what you anticipate is an Iranian effort to stretch out negotiations, do you get any implication from the Iranian leadership that they're amenable to compromise at some point, that the negotiations might lead to an actual deal?

Ms. MOAVENI: Well, were the deal to actually include what the Iranian government wants, which is primarily security guarantees from the U.S., that the U.S. will give up this language of regime change and accept Iran as an Islamic republic as it is, I think that would be very compelling for the Iranian leadership.

The problem is they don't see the Bush administration as inclined to offer that and don't know whether they should even trust any security guarantees that this package might include. So the way they see it, there's really nothing that this Bush administration can offer them that they would feel that they could trust enough to accept. So more likely that they'll try and hold off for two years.

SIEGEL: Azadeh Moaveni, I want you to put Iranian behavior here in the context of other things happening in the region. How do the Iranians, for example, read the sectarian violence between Shiite Muslims and Sunnis in Iraq and the fighting between Shiite Muslims, Hezbollah, and the Israelis in southern Lebanon, for example?

Ms. MOAVENI: Well, Iran has really tried to strike a position in the region as one that's above sectarian violence. And that's why they declared Hezbollah's resistance against Israel - as they described it - as a great victory. Because the Iranian regime thinks that having public opinion in the region on its side gives it great strength in dealing with the international community when it comes to its nuclear problem.

So Iran, we've seen over the last several months that it has tried to gain more and more popularity in the region, and having Hezbollah become the equivalent of a rock star in the Arab world plays to Iran's advantage.

SIEGEL: How would Iranians in Tehran, say, regard the notion of Iran bankrolling the reconstruction of southern Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut, say, the Shiite neighborhoods that were bombed heavily by the Israelis?

Ms. MOAVENI: Most Iranians I think would be extremely displeased to know that any government money or oil revenue is being used for those purposes. There's certainly a feeling here that Iran should restrict its charity to what is needed on the home front.

There's certainly no love lost here for these kind of policies. And throughout this conflict in Lebanon, there was increasing criticism of the government for supporting a group that doesn't actually, as perceived here, do anything for Iran's immediate interest or help Iran's place in the world.

SIEGEL: Azadeh Moaveni, thank you very much for talking with us today.

Ms. MOAVENI: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Azadeh Moaveni, a reporter for Time magazine who is based in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

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