Post correspondent Thomas Erdbrink interviewed Mehdi Kalhor, media adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Here is a transcript of the interview, as translated by the Post:
Q: Can you explain the significance of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter to President-elect Barack Obama?
A: A number of news agencies have said this is new. . . . Please let's not say it is new, because Mr. Ahmadinejad also wrote a letter to Mr. Bush. The ninth government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is made up in such a way that most of its actions are avant-garde, that it does unprecedented things.
This is not a propaganda stunt; it reflects a philosophy, study and planning. We believe that in this world everything is old and decayed. The financial crisis that the West is struggling with -- we believe it signals the approach of the end of the Zionist economy. That is an economy that creates conflict and division between countries and ethnic groups in order to . . . sell arms.
Now let's speak about Mr. Ahmadinejad's actual message. Some people want to think that it marks the end of conflict and differences of opinion between the U.S. and Iran. In reality, it marks the beginning of a phase of dialogue about solving these problems. The response to this letter must be a change of policies and actions on the part of the Americans, not just in words and not just on paper.
Q: Can you give me some examples?
A: We signed the Algiers accord with the U.S. in 1980. One of the articles of that accord was that the U.S. promised not to interfere in Iran's internal affairs. The 1953 coup d'etat, or Operation Ajax, which brought down the government of Mohammed Mossadeq, was mentioned there as an example of such interference. The U.S. Congress has on numerous occasions approved budgets sponsoring regime change in Iran. Countless times, American presidents, defense secretaries and lawmakers have spoke about changing or bringing down this regime, which is a regime chosen by the people. . . .
That's why we say: Change? Not on paper, but in actions.
Q: Can you give me clear examples of what steps Obama should take before entering this phase of dialogue between the United States and Iran?
A: The first step should be American troops leaving Iraq -- no, leaving the whole Middle East. The second step should be abandoning all support for Zionism, which we think would even benefit the American economy.
Q: Why was the language of the letter softer in tone than Ahmadinejad's speeches?
A: Because Mr. Obama is not yet president, this letter was offered as advice. Because the American people have voted for basic change and we respect the people, their vote and their will, Mr. Ahmadinejad hopes that Mr. Obama will be able to carry out that change -- not reforms, but change.