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Interview With Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Speaks Out; Interview With Former French Minister For European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau. Aired 1-1:40p ET

Aired February 21, 2022 - 13:00:00   ET




Here's what's coming up.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Russian forces continue to mass on Ukraine's border, while Macron of France brokers a summit in principle between

Presidents Biden and Putin. We have the details.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are being told that you have several days and then the war will start. And I said,

OK, then apply the sanctions today.

AMANPOUR: My conversation with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. He says he will not respond to Putin's military provocations, even as his

country faces catastrophe.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): She does not understand. But very soon she will understand, because she is 3.

AMANPOUR: A special report showing life on the contested front lines in Eastern Ukraine.

Also ahead:

HOSSEIN AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We are optimistic about the outcome of the negotiations in Vienna.

AMANPOUR: Hope on the horizon for a new nuclear deal. My interview with Iran's foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian.


KIESE LAYMON, AUTHOR: It feels incredibly humiliating, but it also feels historically black.

AMANPOUR: Authors Kiese Laymon and Jason Reynolds tell Michel Martin how it feels to have their books banned.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

The full diplomatic machine is being powered up right now to try to avert Russia waging war in Ukraine. Amid the drumbeat of U.S. predictions of an

imminent invasion, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has been on the hot line.

Here's a look at his Sunday schedule. Call President Vladimir Putin in the morning. Call Ukrainian President Zelensky afterwards. Call German

Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the afternoon. Call the British Prime minister, Boris Johnson, at night. Call President Joe Biden. And then call Vladimir

Putin again.

This intensive weekend diplomacy produced an agreement in principle for a summit between Putin and Biden. But the White House says, first, Secretary

of State Antony Blinken and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov will meet in Geneva on Thursday.

And this is what Putin said in Moscow today:


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): In recent months, at the end of last year, we stepped up our efforts with our main partners

in Washington and NATO to fully agree security measures and to ensure the peaceful development of our country. This is our priority, not a


But we must understand the reality we are living in. And I have said many times already that, if Russia faces a threat, like admitting Ukraine into

NATO, then the threat against our country will be multiplied.


AMANPOUR: Now, further U.S. intelligence indicates that orders have been sent to Russian commanders for an attack on Ukraine. And, furthermore,

towards the evening, President Putin said he was going to address the nation.

And we have heard that he has said to the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, of Germany and to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, that he will sign a

declaration, some kind of declaration on Eastern Ukraine and those breakaway republics. And we understand that the European leaders and the

West are -- quote -- "dismayed."

There has been swift response from those leaders who say that any such recognition, if that's what Putin does, of those Ukrainian eastern

republics of pro-Russian separatists would be a one-sided violation of the Minsk agreement.

So, joining me now from France is Nathalie Loiseau. She used to be Macron's minister for Europe, and she is now an MEP. And she's recently returned

from Kyiv.

Nathalie Loiseau, welcome back to our program.

Let's start with the breaking news that Putin has told your president and indeed the German chancellor that he is going to sign a declaration on

those Russian-speaking separatist region of Eastern Ukraine. So far, Russia has not formally recognized them as independent, but he spoke about doing


What would the reaction of the West be if that was to happen?


But what we witness is Vladimir Putin, trying to seek confusion among us. He's been insisting for months and weeks on the full implementation of

Minsk agreements. And a recognition of so-called people's republics in Luhansk and Donetsk would go against the Minsk agreement.


So this is contradictory, of course.

AMANPOUR: We understand -- and we have seen it.

It's been reported, even before Putin made his declaration, that the E.U. foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said that if that does happen, and in

the instance of a recognition of those separatist regions as independent, the E.U. is prepared to put the list of sanctions down and on the table for


Is that enough at this moment, do you think? Is that keeping cool and calm?

LOISEAU: Well, what we are trying to do, as we see the things on the ground, everything is ready for war.

And the situation is very serious. At the same time, our Emmanuel Macron is trying to make everything possible for peace. And it will be President

Putin's personal choice between war and peace. If he still wants peace, there is a pause. If he only is trying to look for pretext for war, it's

going to be very difficult to stop him.

But Emmanuel Macron is taking very high risks, but it would be even worse not to try something.

AMANPOUR: So, as we're talking, wires keep coming in. And from the Kremlin, we understand that President Putin is going to recognize those

breakaway republics as independent.

What, in real terms, apart from the fact that it's not recognized by any other part of the world, including China, by the way, and certainly not by

the United Nations or anywhere else, what in pragmatic terms on the ground does that mean? Does that mean that Putin then can move his tanks into

Russian independent territory?

LOISEAU: I don't think that Russia refrained from sending equipment or instructors or mercenaries in Eastern Ukraine for approximately eight years


There is a lot of intelligence about it. So, unfortunately, this doesn't make a difference. But it is a clear provocation towards Ukraine. It looks

as if Vladimir Putin is trying to do everything on earth to get rid of Volodymyr Zelensky. It's a bit strange.

You interviewed him in Munich. And we were all impressed by his calm and by his resolve not to cede to provocations. It seems that Vladimir Putin is

trying to provoke him in any way he can.

AMANPOUR: Nathalie Loiseau, President Zelensky has also, in response to what they expect to happen in the Kremlin, has convened his National

Security Council this evening. He has said over and again that he will not retaliate and not respond to any of these false flag operations that we

have seen escalating in the Donbass region over the last 48 hours at least.

And he will not give Putin any pretext to invade. But what does this mean for President Macron's diplomacy? Does it mean that it's even possible

that, if Putin does this extralegal thing by recognizing these breakaway states, that there could be any meetings, as planned, for instance, between

Antony Blinken and Sergey Lavrov, we're told, on Thursday, then this so- called Macron-brokered summit in principle between Biden and Putin?

Is that even possible?

LOISEAU: Well, there is a precondition for any summit to take place, and this is that there is no military aggression. But there are also

commitments made by President Putin.

He said twice that he would withdraw troops from Belarus after the common - - the current exercises. He hasn't done so yet. He also said that he wanted to keep the cease-fire going in Donbass, where there has been 1,000

breaches recently of the cease-fire. He said that he was ready to let the Normandy format go ahead.

But to let the Normandy format, you don't turn your back on Minsk agreements. So he has the key to the -- to what's going to happen.

Obviously, he doesn't want to take direct responsibility and to worsening of the situation, but he's trying to provoke Ukraine.

So this has to be discussed between all the allies, between France and Ukraine. I'm not in the room with Volodymyr Zelensky or Emmanuel Macron,

but if Vladimir Putin is trying to test the unity and the resolve of the transatlantic alliance, he must be disappointed.


Until now, unity is really strong and resolve is really strong. In Munich, you listened to also Ursula von der Leyen and what she said about

sanctions. The resolve in the European Union is extremely strong right now.

AMANPOUR: Nathalie Loiseau, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

And, indeed, at the Munich security summit, we did hear leader after leader extol the virtue and the quite unprecedented nature, at least in recent

times, of the cohesion between the United States and the European allies.

So this is a wall that Putin had not expected to be facing. We also understand that, even from the Kremlin, they're admitting that Chancellor

Scholz and President Macron are disappointed and have told Putin they're disappointed by him recognizing the Eastern Ukraine region, which, again,

is not recognized by any part of the international community.

Now, Putin has been locked in this single-handed struggle with the West over this issue since 2007, when he delivered a landmark address at that

year's Munich Security Conference, railing against NATO expansion and against an American-led unipolar world.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, gave the keynote address at this year's conference. That was on Saturday. And he said that his country

is the last buffer between Western-style democracy and a dictatorship.

As he appealed for support, I spoke to him on stage and began by remarking on his very presence in Munich at this critical time.


AMANPOUR: What was so important for you to be here?

And what do you know about Vladimir Putin's intentions that perhaps the United States or others don't know? Because they think he has made the

decision to enter your country.

ZELENSKY (through translator): Thank you very much. Thank you for this question. And thank you for your -- for the invitation.

It is very important, when Ukraine is being discussed, for Ukraine, for these -- for this information to come from the mouth of our country.

I'm the president. And our team, it's important for all our partners and friends not to agree about anything behind our back.

And I do believe in our partnership. And I do believe that this is the case. And I had very important meetings with the leaders of different

countries and still more to go. And I would like you to hear, to see, to ask questions and get the answers, to understand the level of resilience of

our country, that we are not panicking.

We are very consistent that we are not responding to any provocations. We have our own vaccine already developed for that, not as good as COVID

vaccines. But this vaccine is already 8 years old. We know the things we need to react to and things we shouldn't.

Of course, when our soldiers are being killed, we know we need to respond. But we understand who is killing us.

We understand what these military groups are. But -- and we also understand when they are shooting from the localities surrendered by civilians to

provoke us, for us to respond and to start an escalation on the other side in response to the fire.

It's also important for me -- for us to be on the same page in terms of information. The fact that the partners are sharing with us the

information, we are very grateful for that, by the way, for the cooperation of our intelligences.

But we are in this tension for many, many years now. We do not think that we need to panic. We think these risks are indeed very high, because we

have more troops, 150,000 troops, on our borders. Yes, indeed, that's a big risk, but a very big risk if we respond, if we do respond to one

provocation or the other.

On the other hand, I think the Russian Federation -- and, when we are talking about Russia, this is the people, the whole people of Russia. So I

think they will not be able to start to go to war against Ukraine.

And although, on the temporary occupied territories, we have a lot provocations, and we see them, we see this through the mass media there

disseminating different provocative information, we need to preserve our stability. We need to keep calm and be adults.


This -- from these -- in these terms, Ukraine army is more adult that others.

AMANPOUR: A bit of escalation on the so-called false flag issues.

You have just talked about two Ukrainian soldiers being killed. The Russians say mines have exploded, Ukrainian mines, on their side of the

border. We have seen this rhetoric before. We understand the concept of false flags, but how tense is that? How do you think you can stop it?

Have you considered the levels of the current provocations?

ZELENSKY (through translator): Any provocations are very dangerous.

So, one shelling, one fire, cannon fire can lead to war. And we perfectly understand. As I said, I do think so and this is what our partners believe.

So we need to be very careful. I can't tell you about what will happen now. If you compare to 2014-2015, there were more -- much more casualties,

unfortunately. When someone in the -- mass media says now this is the most horrific situation, that is not true.

It is horrible. It's a tragedy for our nation, for our people. It is a tragedy. And, in the future, you will see that this is the tragedy for

Russians as well, who used to have good relationship with Ukraine.

This is just blunt provocation. These are pure lies. There's no one dead or wounded. This is just cynicism of such a high level that they are blowing

up something on their side and shooting. This is not the first time since 2014 that they are aiming their guns and shooting at the territory that

they themselves control.

This is the kind of cynicism. That's it. And we -- all we care about is peace. And I mentioned this many times to the president of the Russian

Federations and Angela Merkel and Macron in 2019. And we have sent a massive amount of signals, all on a monthly basis.

We have been passing onto different world leaders and directly to Russian Federation that we are ready to sit down and speak. Pick the platform that

you like. Pick the partners that will be there around the table with us. We are ready for that, prepared for that.

What is the point of us shooting and proposing diplomacy at the same time?

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you how you feel today compared to a few days ago?

Because I think everybody has been quite amazed at the solidarity between the United States and your country and Europe and the united front that's

being presented, and also the extraordinary departure, that the United States has used intelligence to telegraph exactly what it sees President

Putin doing.

You have said different things about that, that, on the one hand, it could sow panic, and you're going to remained disciplined. And you just said

again, we're not going to panic.

How do you evaluate the U.S. aggressive use of intelligence to try to dissuade President Putin?

ZELENSKY (through translator): It's difficult for me to judge how the United States should be using their intelligence. I guess they're doing

this in a professional manner. This is their choice.

But I'm grateful for the work that both of our intelligence has been doing. But the intelligence I trust is my intelligence. I trust Ukrainian

intelligence in our territory who understand what's going on along our borders, who have different intelligent sources and understand different

risk based on intercepted data.

We are not really living in delusion. We understand what can happen tomorrow. But maybe the comparison I will make is not good, but just

putting ourselves in coffins and waiting for foreign soldiers to come in is not something we are prepared to do.

We are not going to advance on anyone, but we stand ready for -- to respond to everything. We cannot remain passive. We cannot say on a daily basis

that war will happen tomorrow. What kind of state is it going to be? What kind of economy is it going to be? How can you live in a state when on a

daily basis you are being told tomorrow the war will happen, tomorrow the advance will happen?

It means crushing national currency, money is being taken out, business flying out. Can you live in that kind of country? Can you have stability in

that kind of country? No.


And those who want to disbalance our country from within are multiple. And everyone wants Ukraine to be weak, weak economy, weak army. And if there's

a weak army, you can just go ahead and invade, and we won't be able to protect our people, not our children or the economy.

This is why are response is very calm to one piece of information or the other. We have to assess it. Strengthen our arms. Give us more armaments.

Strengthen our economy. Invest in our country. Bring your business in. If you are afraid, OK, give us cheap financing. Give us support, finance,

grant support.

We had a discussion some time ago with one of the leaders of one of the leading countries. And we were talking about the sanction policy. We had a

different vision on how sanctions should be applied when Russian aggression will happen. And we are being told that you have several days and then the

war will start.

And I said, OK, then apply the sanctions today. Yes, they say, we apply sanctions when the war will happen. I'm saying, fine, but you are telling

me that it's 100 percent that the war will start in a couple days.

Then what are you waiting for? We don't need your sanctions after the bombardment will happen and after our country will be fired at, or after we

will have no borders, after we will have no economy or part of our countries will be occupied. Why would we need sanctions then? What is this


So, when you're asking what can be done, well, lots of different things can be done. We can even provide you the list. The most important is


AMANPOUR: So you're calling for sanctions to be leveled now. You also talked about NATO now.

There's -- obviously, this is the big sensitive issue in this whole issue. And you have just talked about, again, wanting to be part of NATO.

And yet you said you don't expect any NATO soldiers on your territory now. You specifically said we want no foreign soldiers with foreign flags on our

-- on our territory right now.

What is your position on wanting to join NATO today?

ZELENSKY (through translator): To respond to the first part of your question about sanctions, the question is not about introducing them today.

If they pull back their troops, there will be no sanctions.

But, today, even the question of just making it public preventively, just the list of sanctions, for them, for Russia to know what will happen if

they start the war, even that question does not have the support.

OK, let's be honest then. Then I have a question. Why, if you can't even disclose what will happen to whom if the war starts, I doubt that it will

be triggered after it even happens.

In terms of NATO, we have a lot of debate regarding this. And there were lots of discussions about the world leaders and my friends. And, meanwhile,

I have lots of friends among the world leaders. I will not name them, because others will get offended. Ukraine is being supported, indeed.

But Ukraine needs security guarantees. We are smart people. We are not narrow-minded. We understand there are lots of different risks because of

NATO. There's no consensus around -- of the allies. Everyone is saying there is some distance between that we need to go Ukraine and the NATO,

that we need to walk.

All we're saying is, tell us, how much time does it take to complete this distance? Measure it in years. We want it. We do. But unless -- but until

we have that possibility, what we want is the guarantees, security guarantees.

AMANPOUR: So what I want to ask you, Mr. President, is that the U.S. has its intelligence. You said you have yours.

What is your interpretation of Putin's intention, not his capability, his intention? Do you think he will invade, he will decide to do that, or he


ZELENSKY (through translator): I don't know what the president of the Russian Federation wants. That's why I proposed to meet.

That's it.


AMANPOUR: Were you at all afraid of coming here?

ZELENSKY (through translator): No. Why?

There are friends here.

AMANPOUR: No, no, leaving your house unguarded.


ZELENSKY (through translator): Well, my response will be very brief. I'm sure that our country is in good hands. This is not just my hands. These

are the hands of our soldiers and our citizens.

I think my visit here is important. And I would like to say that I had breakfast in the morning in Ukraine, and I will have my dinner in Ukraine

as well. I never leave home for long.


ZELENSKY: Thank you so much.


AMANPOUR: The president of Ukraine putting on a brave face over the weekend. Tonight, he has convened his National Security Council, as news of

President Putin's recognition of the eastern region of Ukraine.

Now, this has been going on for eight years, says Zelensky. Some 14,000 people have died in the ongoing war since Russia invaded the east and

annexed Crimea back in 2014.

Today, civilians are still living near those front lines.

Correspondent Sam Kiley has this report on the people who bear the brunt there.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a small town called New York in Eastern Ukraine, and a short flight for a mortar

bomb from rebel territory, lies Slavyanska (ph) Street.

After eight years of war so close to the front line, homes here are almost worthless. These houses haven't been smashed by war. They have been

destroyed by the poverty conflict brings, torn down and sold as recycled bricks and tiles. Locals tell us that these houses sell for about 70 bucks.

(on camera): This is the end of Slavyanska Street. Now, just down there is the checkpoint, and beyond that is rebel-held territory. And in the last

hour or so, we have heard at least eight explosions.

(voice-over): Lilia (ph) is 3. She's out amid the shelling with her mom lending a hand, playing with the family pup through a gate riddled with

shrapnel holes from a shell that landed before she was born. Her parents tell her that the latest barrage is thunder, but it is something to worry


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): She does not understand. But very soon she will understand, because she is 3.

So, we are now thinking about whether we stay here.

KILEY: Andrey is a rescue worker. He's acutely aware of the surge in recent shelling. According to Ukrainian authorities, there were at least 70

strikes along the front line that Saturday.

(on camera): So, what kind of life do you think your daughter's going to have?

ANDREY PONOMARENKO, RESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): How could I know? There is no stability in the country. I'm doing my best to provide

all that is needed. But, still, I can't change reality.

KILEY (voice-over): The increased Russian-backed rebel shelling that killed two government soldiers on Saturday is being seen as a possible

prelude to a Russian invasion, perhaps along this very street.

Across the road, Maxim (ph) draws water from a well. This community is sliding back into the 19th century. And fear bears down on everyone.

(on camera): Is there much shelling?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There, you hear it.

KILEY: You have had this for a long time. Are you feeling frightened now, though?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes, I'm scared, very scared.

KILEY (voice-over): But many living in Ukraine's New York are trapped by these wartime blues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Where should we go? Why? Nobody cares. And where should we get money to live and rent? So, that is why we

are staying in this house.


AMANPOUR: And it is always the civilians who pay the price, isn't it?

Sam Kiley reporting there.

Even in the worst of the Cold War, the U.S. and the USSR negotiated effective arms control agreements. Now the West is trying to do the same

with Iran over its nuclear program.

The country's foreign minister tells me that his government has never been this close to a deal. We hear the same optimism from American and European

officials, but Hossein Amir Abdollahian says the last few obstacles could still scuttle the whole thing, this, of course, after President Trump

pulled out of the 2015 deal that did limit Tehran's nuclear capabilities.

Here's our conversation on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.


AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, welcome to the program.

There seems to be a lot of cautious optimism, goodwill about the possibility of signing the JCPOA, of getting this Iran deal back into


Do you share that optimism? Is that coming from your side as well?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): We are optimistic about the outcome of the negotiations in Vienna, but about that part of it which has to do

with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Why are we optimistic? Because the administration of Dr. Raisi has a strong will to achieve a good agreement in Vienna.


The administration of Dr. Raisi is emphasizing an interested to achieve a good and urgent agreement. In order to achieve a good agreement, we have

made a lot of efforts in the past weeks. I can say that we have never been this close to reaching a good agreement.

AMANPOUR: That sounds super optimistic. I don't think I have ever heard an Iranian official or frankly, a European or an American talk so

optimistically about the possibilities.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): In order to get close to a good agreement, the Iranian team showed good initiatives and flexibility. But

now, to the western side. The U.S. and the three European countries that should show flexibility and initiative. Flexibility and initiative by the

Western side can bring the negotiations to a conclusion in a matter of a few hours or days. And all of us can then talk of the good agreement.

I would like to explain to you as to where we stand now in Vienna. On the one hand, we are receiving messages from Mr. Biden through different

intermediaries. Mr. Biden is trying to tell the Iranian side that he has good will. On the other hand, Mr. Rob Malley does not show any flexibility

of the negotiating table.

At the same time, they are requesting direct dialogue with the Iranian side. The American side is responsible for the JCPOA. The JCPOA was

sabotaged by the U.S., And now, the U.S. should responsibly accept the responsibility for this and should show the required flexibility in order

for the negotiations to come to a definite conclusion.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, two questions there. What exact flexibility are you asking for?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): There are some issues that are part of our red lines. Regarding the issue of guarantees, we have not yet

received a practical and reliable initiative from the American side. We believe that all the issues, the nuclear issue and the removal of sanctions

should be resolved in the form of a package.

On the return of all sides to the JCPOA, it cannot be that we should both accept the strict supervision system by the IAEA, but at the same time, see

that some of our issues still remain part of the agenda of the board of governors of IAEA.

In 2015 also, the issue of safeguards were resolved in a political agreement. We think we can repeat that model. I said this to the German

foreign minister last night as well. We think that if the U.S. and the Western side do not act real realistically at this sensitive moment and

sensitive condition in Vienna, they will definitely be responsible for the probable failure of the negotiations. Well, we are trying with seriousness

and optimism to achieve a good agreement.

AMANPOUR: Unlike the last time, the United States is not speaking directly with Iran and vice versa. Your, I believe, it's the supreme leader has said

no, that there shouldn't be direct talks. Why not? Because it would be much quicker and much to easier to know because it's really between you two.

Wouldn't it be just quicker and easier?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): There is a tall wall of mistrust between us and the Americans. I think you and your viewers know its reason.

The wrong policies of the Americans vis-a-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. You see, over the last few weeks, we have received messages from different

channels that U.S. officials are interested to have direct talks with us. Even a few days before coming to the Munich Security Conference, we

received messages asking whether we were interested to talk to U.S. officials in the margins of the Munich conference.

I clearly replied that the Americans should change their behavior. Mr. Biden cannot talk of good will on the one hand and on the other hand, in

the past few months, he has imposed sanctions against real and legal persons three times. This means that Mr. Biden is following the method of

Mr. Trump and continuing the sanctions. But at the same time, he's interested in returning to the JCPOA. We cannot understand these

paradoxical behaviors. American official talking about good will and then imposing sanctions. Therefore, we have the right to monitor the behavior of

American and judge them accordingly instead of considering their rhetoric of the criteria and trust them.

In Vienna also, Mr. Rob Malley is interested to talk with our senior negotiator, my colleague, Dr. Bagheri. Currently, this exchange is being

carried out in the form of none paper through (INAUDIBLE). But for us, the key question is, is there any benefit in talks between us and the U.S.? Is

there any clear picture of this dialogue?


In September, when I was in New York, I said, if Mr. Biden had good will and was serious, as a gesture of good will, he should show a practical

initiative, for instance, by unfreezing some of the Iranian assets. We are not asking Mr. Biden to give us loans through U.S. banks. We want him to

release the funds that are owned by the Iranian nation as a gesture of good will. But so far, we have been told that things can happen after direct


This shows that the Americans want negotiations for the sake of negotiation, not for a result that can help reach a good agreement.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, the last question is this. It's a human rights question, but it's also a money question. Because you just brought up this issue

about the U.S. unfreezing Iranian assets. We understand that the U.K. signed an agreement with your country to secure the release of Nazanin

Zaghari Ratcliffe. It was meant to have been last summer, but the deal fell through.

Now, as we all know, also, there's a lot of money involved. Iran is due 400 million pounds for former arms purchases from the U.K. under the Shah,

which it never received. So, you paid, you didn't receive. You want that money back. Would payment of that outstanding debt to Iran secure the

release of Nazanin?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): For us, the issue of swapping prisoners is completely a humanitarian issue. Last year also, there was an

agreement on the basis of which prisoners were supposed to be exchanged regardless of Vienna talks. Even in the list of exchange of prisoners, the

person you mentioned was also included. But unfortunately, in the last minute, the Americans announced that all of this should be included in a

complete package.

The release didn't take place. Maybe the American are interested in covering the issue of exchange of prisoners as part of the Vienna

negotiations. We believe this is a humanitarian issue and can be considered as an urgent measure outside the Vienna negotiations.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you very much for joining us.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: Thank you so much. All the best to you.


AMANPOUR: And again, civilians are pawns in these geostrategic, geopolitical arguments.

We're told though by the U.S. and the Iranians and the Europeans that the next couple weeks will be decisive on the Iran nuclear deal whether it will

happen or not.

And now, we return to a vexing battle inside the United States. We have followed the recent rise for school boards banning books to supposedly

protect kids from being and feeling uncomfortable. Yet, sometimes, discomfort is an avenue to growth.

Michel Martin sat down to discuss this issue with the award-winning authors, Jason Reynold and Kiese Laymon, who have had both their books

banned or challenged by school boards around the country.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Kiese Laymon, thank you so much for joining us.

KIESE LAYMON, AUTHOR: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: And Jason Reynolds, thank you so much for joining us.


MARTIN: One of the things we wanted to talk about today is the fact that books by both of you have been either banned or challenged in numerous

jurisdictions around the country.

Jason, two of your books have been challenged so often. They are in the top 10 most challenged books of 2020 according to the American Library

Association. Some of the reasons cited for the banning of the books, "Stamped," racism, antiracism and (INAUDIBLE). That's the book written by

you and Ibram Kendi because of author's public statements, because of claims that the book contains selective storytelling incidents and does not

encompass racism against all people.

And then, "All American Boys," and you wrote this with Brendan Kiely. Reasons banned and challenged for profanity, drug use and alcoholism and

because it was thought to promote antipolice views and contain the list of topics and "too much of a sensitive matter" right now.

So, the first thing I wanted to ask you, Jason Reynolds, is that, how did you first hear that this movement was happening and how did it strike you

when you did hear?

REYNOLDS: I have been challenged before and banned before. I mean, you know, I have gone through this quite a few times. And so, how does I feel

or how does it feel when every time it happens? It's painful for me, right?

Like, I think it's painful for me because for a few reasons, number one, I think it make this really strange assumption that I am doing something that

is harmful for young people, harmful to young people, right? It's saying I am harming young people or that I am intending to harm young people, which,

of course, would never be the case. I would never do anything to harm any young person. I would never make anything to harm any young person. And so,

that feels -- it offends me and it -- quite honestly, it hurts my feelings, right? Like, it's a painful thing.


At the same time, it also is painful because it strips access to these books for all the young people who may need them. If you don't want to read

this book, you don't have to read it. But to strip them completely off the shelves, to remove them from schools feels -- quite frankly, it feels

unloving when it comes to the way that we're talking to our young people and it's rooted in the fear of adults not in the fear of kids. It's rooted

in the dismissal and the disregard of the intellective of our young people. It's rooted in the insecurity of their parent and --