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Iranian ambassador on the concerns over nuclear deal; Costa Rica's president-elect on his surprise win. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired May 2, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, newly sworn in as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo says the US is still considering its next
move on what he calls the flawed Iran nuclear deal, while the French President Emmanuel Macron says that it's time for a broader deal. But what
does Tehran think? My exclusive interview with Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Plus, in the age of rising populism and fearmongering, in another exclusive tonight, I talk to Costa Rica's President-elect Carlos Alvarado about how
he won a surprise landslide on a progressive agenda.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
America has a new secretary of state. And at his swearing-in today, flanked by President Trump, Mike Pompeo said that the United States will
soon decide what to do about the Iran Nuclear Deal.
And the clock is ticking for Trump to make that decision as European and other signatories try hard to save it. They say it's a deal that after all
contains Iran's nuclear program.
The French President Emmanuel Macron tried during a touchy-feely state visit to the White House last week. And in Australia today, he insisted
the deal is working as designed, but he agrees that it's time to add something extra.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: As we negotiated it, we signed it, it's good to respect it. And that for me, a good beginning. Is it sufficient
or not? I mean, my view is that it's not sufficient. I don't know what the US president will decide the 12th of May.
I just want to say whatever the decision will be, we will have to prepare such a broader negotiation and a broader deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But is that possible? What would happen if the US withdraws and what of the Israeli prime minister's campaign to paint the deal as built on
Hamid Baeidinejad is Iran's ambassador to the United Kingdom, which is also trying to convince President Trump to stay the course.
Welcome, ambassador, to the program. Thanks for joining me. So, I guess, first and foremost, behind all the public noise about this, what do you,
what does the Iranian government think is going to happen? Do you have any inside track on this?
HAMID BAEIDINEJAD, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED KINGDOM: Of course. We're pursuing the developments with care and interest and seriousness.
This is a very hectic time for the JCPOA, which is the result of intensive negotiations between Iran and the great powers.
So, we are waiting to see what would be the decision of the United States on the deal.
AMANPOUR: Are you disappointed? Are you concerned about the signals? How would you describe the signals coming from everywhere now, the White House,
and even Europeans?
BAEIDINEJAD: Of course, they are negative signals on the ground, but we would like to be very realistic and see what would - the final decision of
the United States. But the signals are not very constructive.
We see signals which are negative on a daily basis, but we want to give sufficient time to the United States to give its proper decision.
AMANPOUR: So, you still have some hope?
BAEIDINEJAD: I cannot say some hope. Of course, hope should be always there. Humanity without hope is nothing. But we want to be prepared for
different scenarios. We are prepared for realistic scenarios on the ground. And we want to wait to give the time to the US to finally decide.
So, you say you're prepared. And today, the former Secretary of State John Kerry who was the principal negotiator along with your foreign minister,
Dr. Javad Zarif, made a lot of tweets about why this was an important deal, that it took more than a decade to come to, that it took two years of
intense and close negotiations.
And he explained that in his tweets. But you just said we're preparing for every eventuality. So, what happens - what does Iran do if the United
States pulls out of the deal? I guess that would mean re-imposing US sanctions.
BAEIDINEJAD: Yes. As you said, there could be some different scenarios on the ground. The first scenario is resorting to the mechanism devised in
the JCPOA, which is a mechanism to resolve differences which is included in paragraph 36.
[14:05:05] AMANPOUR: So, let's just be clear. The JCPOA is the real name for the Iran Nuclear Deal. So, you would go to the sort of arbitration
BAEIDINEJAD: I'm not saying that we would do that. I'm saying that this is a possibility. So it depends on the decision of the United States, if
that possibility could come true or not, but this is a possibility.
Another possibility for us is that in reaction to the United States, we would also withdraw from the deal. That is something very real and, in
fact, very realistic. So, this is something that we are planning. And our president also has instructed to different organizations and authorities in
Tehran to prepare for such eventuality.
AMANPOUR: So, what does that mean, withdraw from the deal? What does that mean you do? Go back to what?
BAEIDINEJAD: When the United States is out of the deal, it means that there is no deal left because important party of the treaty has abrogated
and violated in clear terms the treaty. There is no, in fact, the situation as designed in the deal.
So, there's completely new situation. So, there could be a very clear interpretation that there is no deal left, that Iran would be staying in
the deal. So, the consequence would be that Iran, in fact, would be ready to go back to the previous situation.
AMANPOUR: So, that means enriching uranium at a vast speed and capacity?
BAEIDINEJAD: It could be enriching uranium. It could be redefining or cooperation with the agency and some other activities that are under
AMANPOUR: So, in this world of threats and counterthreats, this is what President Trump said about, in fact, your president who said something
similar that we'd go back to status quo ante. This is what President Trump said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're not going to be restarting anything. If they restart it, they're going to have big
problems, bigger than they've ever had before and you can mark it down. They restart their nuclear program, they will have bigger problems than
they have ever had before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How do you interpret that "bigger problems than you've ever had before?" Many interpreted that as once again bringing the specter of a
military conflict or military strikes into the political debates.
BAEIDINEJAD: At least here I can agree with President Trump that Iran will not start a nuclear weapon program because we have never had such program
So, we have clearly committed ourselves being in the NPT, first, and then in numerous occasion as a policy of the country since we have also a fatwa
from our leadership that, in fact, nuclear weapons is something forbidden for us legally and religiously.
So, we would not back to - we would not to be in a situation to be engaged in any matter in a nuclear weapons program, but we would be back to the
situation in our nuclear industry in terms of enrichment, in terms of other capacities that we are quite legitimate under the terms of the NPT and the
AMANPOUR: But that's what President Trump was saying. If you restart that, you would face worse problems than ever. And as you know, he has got
new senior members of his national security apparatus. He's got a new secretary of state sworn in today. He has a new national security adviser.
Both of them are quite hard line on Iran.
Let me play for you something that John Bolton, the new national security adviser, said as all these protests were underway in Iran just around new
year, protests against the government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, NOW U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think now especially, although I haven't favored this deal since it came into being, to see the
protests in Iran, to see the danger that the regime there is in, now to turn away the opportunity to put the economic screws on them in a big way,
I think would be a tragic mistake for the administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, before he came into the administration, he is practically talking about regime change. That's what he's referring to, put the screws
on, take advantage of these demonstrations against the government.
BAEIDINEJAD: I don't think that these things are relevant here or related.
AMANPOUR: Are you not worried about this new crew in the White House?
BAEIDINEJAD: Not at all because, in fact, we started the negotiations to be a win-win solution for all parties to the deal and we are, in fact, very
disappointed to see that one party, in fact, tries to abrogate the deal, violate the deal and be out of the deal.
[14:10:11] But we are very confident that we had the intention to embark on a confidence-building process and normalize our nuclear industry and, in
the meantime, let the international community be, in fact, less concerned, not concerned about our nuclear program.
But when that is the situation that they don't want to see these confidence-building enforced, the reality is that we have the full support
of our nation to respond very effectively, in fact, to the decision by the United States to withdraw from the deal if that would be the decision.
AMANPOUR: Next question is an important one because you heard what President Macron said today that he could see, despite thinking this deal
does what it's meant to do under this specific deal, a broader negotiations on other issues, intercontinental ballistic missiles, terrorism and
regional influence, that whole issue that the rest of the world is also concerned about.
Does Iran believe that that's a starter? Would you do that? Would you enter and renegotiate the deal or have an add-on deal?
BAEIDINEJAD: This is not the first time that we hear such statements when we wanted to start negotiations on the JCPOA. Exactly this was the view by
some that let's negotiate on everything on Iran nuclear program, on terrorism, on human rights, on regional issues.
But, in fact, we were convinced that we cannot, in fact, find a solution for all of these issues. We were instructed by our high authorities to
concentrate on the Iran nuclear issue and we believe that with a goodwill we could find a solution and we found that solution.
So, this is not a new thing to us.
AMANPOUR: I know. But would you accept to have now these negotiations?
BAEIDINEJAD: The modalities that are suggested, totally unacceptable to us because there is some kind of conditionality that if we want to continue
the implementation of the JCPOA, there should be agreement on other elements, which is totally unacceptable.
JCPOA was negotiated on its own merit and still it's working and it should be continued to be in force, if there are other issues which the parties -
all parties reach to a conclusion that they can have dialogue and understanding. Certainly, that's a possibility for the future.
AMANPOUR: What do you make now? I assume you put a lot of faith or hope in European leaders and the other big signatures, China, Russia, who all
signed on to this two-year negotiation in what's known as the JCPOA?
It looks like they haven't managed, but we don't know, but as we sit here right now it looks like they haven't managed to change President Trump's
mind and he may very well pull out. So, what faith do you have in Europe?
BAEIDINEJAD: In fact, this is unfortunate because this is the second time that Europe is really determined to salvage negotiations on solution
because that was done in 2005 also, but they were not successful.
This time they are determined to salvage the JCPOA and we know that they are doing this with a goodwill to convince the United States to save the
deal, but the reality is that they have not been able to do that.
And we also shared with them the concern that we agree on the strategy, but not the tactic. They should not be, in fact, waiting to see if they can
appease President Trump by giving him more concessions because we think that that is impossible to convince the United States by such decisions.
We should be very clear to the United States that we have deal, we want to stay in the deal and this deal should be effectively implemented.
AMANPOUR: Now, let's turn to what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented to the world on Monday when he showed a huge treasure trove of
thousands and thousands of documents retrieved by Mossad agents from a secret warehouse in Iran, southern districts of Tehran, and this is what he
said about the JCPOA, calling it "based on a mountain of lies."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[14:15:00] BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The fact that you have a dangerous deal, the fact that Iran is keeping or not violating a
dangerous deal doesn't make it less dangerous.
It's completely flawed. It's based on lies. It's based on the fact that they hid the nuclear weapon program and knowledge that they stored up.
They didn't come clean with it.
And it's also based on the fact that Iran will somehow be a docile neighbor. That's not what's happening. The opposite has happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, what do you make of those allegations? I mean, clearly, and even the rest of the world says you did have some kind of nuclear
weapons program feasibility studies, whatever you might call it, at least up until 2003.
BAEIDINEJAD: There have been some allegations against conducting of such activities in Iran, but never there was any proof presented to Iran. And,
in fact, during the technical talks that we had with the agency for so long time under the different names of resolving the past issues, resolving, in
fact, the allegations, we were able, in fact, with the IAEA to reach such an understanding and the IAEA presented its final assessment on the issue.
And according to that final assessment, which was that Iran has not been engaged in nuclear weapons program, the board of governors of the IAEA, in
fact, closed this file permanent. So, that was based on the realities on the ground.
AMANPOUR: Just one last question because everybody is now looking at President Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea and they're saying that he
actually played a very savvy game. He essentially, what people are calling it, used nuclear weapons blackmail against the rest of the world and he's
getting a visit from President Trump.
And potentially, it's denuclearize. We don't know. People are suggesting that maybe Iran might take a lesson from North Korea, might actually go
back to a nuclear weapons program and see how much the world likes that and try to hold out for more and better deals. Is that possible?
BAEIDINEJAD: As I said, this is off the agenda because we believe that, in fact, staying within the NPT modalities and renouncing nuclear option, this
is a fundamental policy of Iran. So, we don't pursue that route, but, unfortunately, because of the frustration over the implementation of the
deal, now there is a view which is now more strengthened in Iran that we should be out of the NPT.
Of course, we are not saying that we should start a nuclear weapons program, but they are very frustrated about being in the NPT, but deprived
of the rights of a state party to the treaty.
AMANPOUR: So, very briefly, is this empowering the hardliners in Iran, who also don't like the nuclear deal?
BAEIDINEJAD: In fact, on this issue, we have a consensus in Iran that we want to, in fact, stay within the NPT, but we should be able to also be
enjoying our rights as a state party.
But as I said, because of such frustration, now there are some views and stronger and stronger that Iran maybe is not be able to enjoy its rights
under the NPT and it's better to withdraw from the NPT.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador Baeidinejad, thank you so much for joining us.
BAEIDINEJAD: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And so, turning now to another issue, which is right on the United States' southern border, that's the migrant caravan. A big group of
Central American migrants are waiting to cross over, some of them are now officially seeking asylum, which is a difficult progress and rarely
successful for the applicants.
As the divisive rhetoric heats up in Central America, Costa Rica is bucking the trend. The nation just held a highly contentious election where gay
marriage took center stage and Costa Ricans overwhelmingly chose a candidate who passionately spoke out for tolerance and inclusivity as well
as rule of law and economic progress.
He is Carlos Alvarado, a former journalist and novelist and he'll be sworn in on Tuesday becoming, at 38, the youngest democratically-elected leader
in Costa Rica's 200-year history and this is his first international interview.
Mr. President, welcome to the program.
CARLOS ALVARADO, COSTA RICAN PRESIDENT-ELECT: It's an honor sharing this time with you.
AMANPOUR: Well, listen, I want to ask you straight away because you are a new central American president at a time when Central America is very much
in focus for a lot of the wrong things, I'm afraid, for the push factor that is sending so many of your people around that area up through Mexico,
trying to get into the United States, the so-called caravan of migrants.
[14:20:05] What do you make of that? How can your neighborhood stop the push factor, so to speak?
ALVARADO: Well, this is a phenomenon that's occurring all around the world related to migration. It's something that we have to tackle regionally.
It's not a specific phenomenon. It's happening regionally.
And I do believe we need to deal with it, working in matters of security, working also in matters of the registration and the proper registration of
the people and the movement of the people and as well defending human rights in the process.
AMANPOUR: So, Mr. President, let me play this comment from your American counterpart, Donald Trump, who made it at a speech last week. This is
about the migrant caravan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have to have border security. The one good thing, watch the caravan, watch how sad and terrible it is, including for those people
because they come up, and the crime that they inflict on themselves and that others inflict on them. It's a horrible dangerous journey for them.
And they come up because they know once again, they can walk right into our country. We have the greatest people on Earth and they can't do anything
because the laws are corrupt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, it's really become a rallying cry for this administration. I know Costa Rica does not have this exodus, but it's become a real focal
point for the United States.
ALVARADO: Well, I would like to use the Costa Rican example to address that. For example, we have the migrants. Half-a-million migrants from
Central America, especially from Nicaragua. And most of them come here to work in agriculture, in domestic service, in private security and they are
really important for our economy.
But we also have older migrants. We have lots of US citizens that come here either as tourists or as when they're elderly that come here to have a
nice day in places in Costa Rica.
So, we need to have a balance between the good part of migrations, especially in the economic part, also in the cultural part, but we also
need to enforce a systems of security, biometrics and other kind of technology in the borders, so these migrations could be order and
We are looking also of phenomena like organized crime and drugs, for example, that are affecting this region.
AMANPOUR: OK. Mr. President, let me ask you about your own win. You face a lot of the currents that we're seeing around the world right now -
populism, anti-foreigner, anti-immigration, in some cases anti-LGBT issues, and you faced them down and you won. It was quite a divisive election.
How did you take that message to the people? How did you dare to face down, for instance, your very conservative challenger, who basically
threatened not to implement the constitutional law on allowing LGBT rights?
ALVARADO: Well, I do believe that, in our region, and specifically in Costa Rica, we need to strengthen the republican values or the values of
the republic. That means the government of the people. And the government should be for all the families, for all the people.
We have to recognize also in Costa Rica, but in Latin America, that our societies are more and more diverse. We have people living in cities,
people living in the fields, people on the coast. We have different faiths, people are Catholic or Protestant or different religions. We have
people of different ages and also a strong LGBT movement, the women's movement and there's lots of diversity.
But the republic should be a republic for all of the people and that the democratic debate should put all those points of view, but have a common
ground for government.
That means that the government should not exclude certain of those groups, but needs to embrace the majority. And I believe those - well, that's the
biggest challenge of our current era.
AMANPOUR: You just talked about being a bit of an example. One of the things you really are a major example for the world is in the realm of
People look to Costa Rica and the way your country has implemented sustainable government, sustainable policies and all sorts of people go to
Costa Rica to figure out how you did it and how that can be translated and transferred around the world.
What would you tell the rest of the world, but also especially the United States right now, which is under a severely climate-skeptic administration?
[14:25:08] ALVARADO: Well, we want to move forward with example. Actually, we have an electric matrix. It's more than 99 percent renewable
and clean. And we want to move that clean and electric matrix to the transportation. Our major consumption of fossil fuels is in
So, in my administration, we're going to move forward aggressively in changing transportation and fossil fuels to renewable energies.
That's why we have passed a bill to make easier the import of electric vehicles and we're working with the Costa Rican astronaut, Franklin Chang,
to also with hydrogen as sources of clean energy.
Our goal is to lead in this matter around the world. We are supporting all the Paris agreements and we want to lead because we think this is
In the past, Costa Rica, 70 years ago abolished the army and we set the example on peace matters.
We also have a strong democratic system as we show in last election. It's true elections that people make their decisions in a really democratic way
and we have strong institutions on that.
Now, in climate change, we want to step to the next level. And we want not only to protect our biodiversity, we have 6 percent of the world's
biodiversity in our small territory, which is a lot, but we also want to lead in matters of climate change.
And I'm looking forward in our administration to set an example of what the duration should be.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, Carlos Alvarado, thank you so much for joining us.
ALVARADO: It's been a pleasure. And I hope you can visit our country again, so you can see what we're doing in renewable energies and in other
AMANPOUR: It would be a pleasure. Thank you so much.
And that is it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.