While Iran's citizens are protesting in the streets, demanding that the government change its economic policies, the country's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said he is not moved or frightened by the European Union's intention to toughen sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
"It's not a big deal," Salehi said in an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel. "The sanctions create inconveniences. For over 30 years now, we have been living with boycott measures that ultimately make us independent and strong."
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Asked about the violent riots that erupted in Tehran last week over the collapse of the country's currency, which has lost a third of its value against the dollar in one week, Salehi said: "The Iranian society is used to living with hardships – perhaps more so than people in Spain and Greece. We can count on the patience of our people. What about you in Europe?
In Sunday's edition of the German paper, Salehi reiterated that Iran has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and insists there is no proof it is conducting nuclear research for military ends.
Tehran street riots last week (Photo: AFP)
However he said: "If our right to enrichment is recognized, we are ready for a trade-off. We would, on a voluntary basis, limit the amount of our enrichment."
Salehi further denied that Iran was concealing evidence of nuclear experimenting held at Parchin, as appears in satellite photos of the base. "That is ridiculous. Nuclear research leaves fingerprints that can never be totally eliminated. I do not want to rule out that we may find a way to open Parchin – on a voluntary basis, as we have done on other occasions in the past."
PM's presentation was 'bizarre'In Salehi's full interview, which was published on Monday, the foreign minister addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's UN speech and the crisis in Syria.
Regarding the PM's speech at the UN, Salehi said that "the presentation was bizarre; I found it childish to hold up a caricature of a bomb. If the Israelis had wanted to attack us, and if they could have done so, they would have done so long ago. In 1981, they destroyed an Iraqi reactor without warning. But they have been threatening us for years, on every occasion and publicly. They know what would happen if they attacked. We don't want war, but we will defend ourselves. Aggressors will pay a high price."
Asked about the Syrian civil war, Salehi who recently met with Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the government is in control of the situation in Syria. "What is happening in Syria is tragic, and its not just government troops that are responsible. Assad poses no threat to the region, or to world peace, for that matter. The president is realistic. He does not believe that Syria can be pacified from one day to the next." he said.
Salehi further denied sending arms to Damascus and supporting the Islamic regime with military advisers and elite Revolutionary Guard forces. "Any government that uses weapons of mass destruction against its own people has lost its legitimacy. This applies to Syria, and it also applies to us," he said.
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