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Iran's ex-president Khatami believes US attack on Iran unlikely

AFP | September 5 2006

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, on a visit to the United States, said he believes a US attack on Iran is unlikely and called for a diplomatic solution to the impasse over the country's disputed nuclear program in an interview broadcast on Monday.

Khatami, who has no scheduled meetings with US government officials during his two-week visit, is the most senior Iranian representative to travel to the United States since Washington broke off diplomatic relations following the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran.

Asked if he feared possible military action against Iran over its nuclear program, Khatami told CNN television: "We are definitely worried and hopeful that such a thing will not take place, such attack will not take place.

"I think, in all honesty, the probability of something like that taking place are very low. And I believe the only power that can undertake -- can take such steps is the United States, and, quite frankly, I think the United States has caused itself enough problems in Iraq."

Iran rejected an August 31 deadline to halt enrichment activities and Washington is urging the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Tehran.

In the interview conducted in Chicago, Khatami called for a diplomatic solution to resolve the impasse.

"Through communication and negotiation, the needed guarantees can be given to give assurances that we're not pursuing the atomic weapon," said Khatami, speaking through an interpreter.

He said Iran had never sought to secure nuclear weapons.

"It has never been the policy nor the mindset of any branch of the Iranian government to pursue atomic weapons, which can be the source of vast, numerous deaths in the world."

Khatami is considered a moderate reformist unlike his hardline successor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has provoked international outrage with comments calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

Asked about Ahmadinejad's remarks on Israel, he said: "I personally never said that Israel should be wiped off the map.

"I always said and backed fair and equal peace in the region with the main pillar -- one of the main pillars of which would have to be fair treatment of Palestinians and also the repatriation rights of the Palestinian refugees."

Discussing the prospects for democracy in the Middle East, Khatami said that any outside intervention only makes political progress more difficult.

"Obviously, we do have some mistakes, some challenges in the region, wrong decisions taken by the leaders in the region. But I firmly believe it's only increased through foreign intervention," he said.

"I again firmly believe that through dialogue and close cooperation and understanding there is a better way to work through and eliminate the problems and challenges, rather than threats and violence."


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