Iraq centrestage of extremism: Khatami

The former Iranian president charged it was the American 'conceit' and 'arrogance' that led to the current mess in Iraq.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2006 13:40 IST

Sharply criticising the US, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has charged that it was the American "conceit" and "arrogance" that led to the current "mess" in Iraq, which has become a "centrestage of extremism and radicalism."

However, he distanced himself from many of the hardline views of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but warned the US and Israel against any strikes, saying it would cost heavily.

Khatami, in an interview to Time magazine, endorsed the two-state solution to achieve peace between Israel and Palestinians and called Holocaust a "historical fact."

Replying to a question, he said removal of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power has been proved to be of benefit to Iran.

"I also predicted that getting into Iraq would be very easy (for America), but getting out of it would be extremely difficult. And today, Saddam is gone but Iraq has become the centrestage of extremism and radicalism."

But he rejected the suggestion that Iraq is now witnessing a civil war and also strongly opposed the idea of partitioning Iraq in three parts -- Shia, Sunni and Kurd.

"Definitely a bad idea. Iraq should remain unified. The solution is a democratic state. Numerically, the country is majority Shiite, but the government is not yet sectarian.

The President is a Kurd. The head of the government is a Shiite. The Sunnis have great, effective participation. So the breakup of Iraq is very dangerous. A democratic state can prevent this from taking place," he said.

"We could have resolved Iraq issue without invasion and occupation without the cost in terms of human life, American lives, Iraqi lives and money... If US had not had such a sense of conceit and pride or maybe arrogance," Iraq could have been spared of the current "mess", he said.

"The best way is to strengthen and to support the government, its security services, its police forces, and the best way to do that is also to get help from neighbouring countries.

The US should know that it could get the help of Arab and Islamic countries to secure its interests, rather than without them."

During the hour-long interview, Khatami, who served as President for eight years before leaving office in 2005, said he has never called the United States 'Great Satan.'

"But I get really upset when Iran is called part of the 'Axis of Evil.' Even (Ayatollah) Khomeini (who coined the phrase 'Great Satan') was referring only to US policies - not to the American people or America itself, which is a great and big country," he said.

Replying to a question, he said opposition to Israel is moral. "The peaceful solution to the problem of Palestine is to recognise Palestinian rights. This is the only way there could be sustained peace in the region."

Asked about denial of Holocaust by the Iranian President, Khatami said "I believe the Holocaust is the crime of Nazism.

But it is possible that the Holocaust, which is an absolute fact, a historical fact, would be misused. The Holocaust should not be, in any way, an excuse for the suppression of Palestinian rights."

First Published: Sep 09, 2006 13:40 IST