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Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, left, delivers a speech as Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro looks on during a state dinner at the Quirinale Presidential Palace in Rome Tuesday, March 9 1999. It is the first state visit to the West by an Iranian leader since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Khatami is scheduled to meet Pope John Paul II at the Vatican next Thursday. (AP Photo/ Pier Paolo Cito)

President Khatami's speech at Italian Parliament

Rome, March 9, IRNA -- The text of the speech of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the representatives of the Italian houses of parliament: (Also see speech in RealVideo)

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

His excellency Mancino,
His excellency Violante,
Honorable representatives,
Distinguished audience,

As an elected representative of the Iranian nation, I am happy to have the opportunity to speak among the prominent representatives of the Italian nation, of the necessities and areas of cooperation on a national, regional and international level.

More than ever, on the threshold of a new century, our world is in need of a viable peace and a firm foundation for coexistence. It is for this reason that one must critically assess the past and the present world, reflecting on existing obstacles to our understanding of the truth, and the possibility of achieving peace, so that age-old difficulties could be overcome and stumbling blocks in the way of all nations removed.

Unfortunately, the century we are putting behind us has been fraught with tension, violence, war, inequality, trampling upon man's dignity, infringement upon the rights of oppressed nations, and practicing a double standard in political and legal affairs. The roots of such instability can be seen in the principles, beliefs, and approaches of some who view the world and human community with egoistic and tribal attitudes, sacrificing justice, freedom, independence and all the fundamental rights of others, to greed and the sanctification of their own power.

Reflecting upon these issues can, to a great extent pave the way for finding a solution to the problem of how one can arrive at 'grandeur' and 'power', especially in a country which is the cradle and provenance of the renaissance.

Can a government, performing on a national or international level, be powerful and effective only when it is endowed with absolute power? In the whole universe is this earth the only thing of value, and should wielding power be regarded as the only criterion of our primal earthly goals?

The truth is that in modern western civilization the unconditional wielding of power has been subject to serious criticism and doubt. It has not only emerged as an essential and historical basis in east-west colonialist relations, but it has been applied as a leverage by domineering powers over the oppressed and plundered world. this has been the most prevalent factor in shaking the foundation of a viable peace.

There is no doubt that modern civilization has been able to attain invaluable achievements in growth and democracy, however, one must also take into account the price paid for these achievements in international relations. We know that modern civilization has experienced fascism and proletariat dictatorship in practice, and has paid dearly to campaign against them in order to render the institution of democracy more permanent and lasting.

However, the main issue of discourse is this: that out of this bitter and vitriolic experiences of fascism and proletariat dictatorship, new. yet similar forms of malignancy such as warmongering, discrimination, and oppression have been practiced and inculcated in colonial societies. It is clear that the establishment of relations between countries on the basis of inequality and dividing the world into east and west blocs, between the oppressed and the oppressors, have had no result other than an armed peace, violence, tension and terrorism.

If we desire a genuine peace, we must seek justice, tolerance, exchange of views, and act accordingly. In this century, man's endeavor in quest of freedom, independence, the reining in of power, and limiting political power to the will and desire of the people are substantial achievements, which must be defended and strengthened so as to benefit from a sustainable balance and stability in the human community.

Tolerance and exchange of views are the fruits of cultural richness, creativity, high-mindedness and harmony. One must recognize this opportunity. Tolerance leads to dialogue, and intolerance culminates in war. Speaking of the elimination of tension can only be possible among tolerant policies and cultures. A world seeking balance and peace is in dire need of the promulgation of such cultures.

Beginning the third millennium and wishing for a better world necessitates comprehending such realities and overcoming difficulties created by dominating countries. They create such difficulties due to their greed, injustice, intolerance, and non-recognition of the right of other nations to exist, and, in short, by the application of a double standard in relations between themselves and others.

Man, who has invariably sought freedom and loved justice, finds himself defeated in attaining these values. This despair and confinement leads to an imbalance and a fragile peace on a national, regional and international levels. The apparent cause of numerous conflicts is underdevelopment, which renders many people hopeless, leading them to violence. and yet, development is established on the basis of security. And security can only prevail when man is respected in all circumstances and at all times, his rights are recognized, and the strong help the weak in attaining their rights. Thus, we should determine the role and share of developed countries in this regard.

Human and social security, which is the foundation for peace, is a cultural, political, economic and environmental concept, which is even more vital than internal security. Any negligence with respect to these issues subjects communities to imbalance, intolerance, and eventually turmoil and war. We must see how such a security can be made to last.

Today, global equilibrium has been disrupted by the claim of supremacy, attempts to assimilate all cultures and communities in an established world order, the temptation of superpowers to transfer their difficulties beyond their natural geographical boundaries, economic expansion, the unrestrained proliferation of military, chemical and biological weapons, and indifference to spiritual and moral principles.

By the critical assessment of international relations of the past, we must reflect upon a future in which all human beings and all societies will have a share. 'Peace' ought not to be interpreted as forcing the world into reconciliation, and 'globalism' should not be defined as self-alienation and assimilation in a domineering culture and global uniformity.

We are at the beginning of a long journey in which respecting man, sharing and cooperating with one another are reconsidered through dialogue. In the world we know, all relations once assumed to be certain, are now open to a thorough reconsideration and reconstruction. Dialogue, collaboration, and mutual ties are indispensable elements for finding solutions that consummate in the establishment of a viable peace and a bright future.

Bold questions, rather than relying on predetermined answers, in search of new definitions and fresh amendments, designing new cultural, mental and political plans are a necessity. A new paradigm for understanding today's world and moving toward a sustainable peace is necessary.

If in the third millennium we want man's dignity and rights, as well as peace, justice and tranquility to prevail, man must be respected under all circumstances and not be categorized into first and second-class, or western and non-western. Discrimination in standards of living, education, progress, information, technology, peace and stability arise from the oppression inflicted upon human beings and communities. For stepping into the third Christian millennium with dignity, a global will and determination are necessary for universalizing democracy and uprooting discrimination and humiliation within all countries and among all nations and governments.

All nations have a right to enjoy popular and responsible governments accountable to the people and under their supervision. all nations have the right to development in all areas, and all nations have a right to a viable peace based on reconciliation and mutual understanding. As a result, establishing a civil society on the basis of human rights throughout the world is a sublime and peace-loving effort. Furthermore, we must reflect upon the establishment of democracy and a civil society on an international scale.

In today's world, governments either rely on the will of their nations or on that of foreign power. For institutionalizing democracy within countries and nations, we must in the first place reflect upon the elimination of the major buttress of oppression and discrimination in these countries. In other words, we must ponder on how to eliminate international oppression and discrimination, and seek to establish democracy and to create or strengthen a civil society and civil institutions.

For me, it is cause for rejoicing that I speak in a land that has a rich heritage and great traditions in parliamentary and republican institutions. In the area of legal and social research, Roman law signifies grace and the profundity of thought in the history of European civilization. The Republic of Rome and Roman law have been a milestone in the human struggle for attaining social order. Today's Italy is one of the focal points of modern civility, with an extensive influence on the rest of the world.

By depending on their rich culture and history, under the leadership of Imam Khomeini (ra), our nation has embarked upon a new path. Through choosing an Islamic Republic, our nation determined its path towards republicanism without abandoning its cultural identity, that is Islam. It is not prepared and does not see any need for sacrificing Islam to republicanism, or republicanism to Islam. And until now, it has continued on its path, which has not been so level, and despite hostilities and misunderstandings, it has tried to create a sovereignty based on both Islamic teachings and popular elections.

Only two weeks ago people throughout the country participated in a splendid election and voted for more than 200,000 candidates for urban and rural councils. Although the honor of holding the elections fell on the present government, one must not forget that through this process the government succeeded in the materialization of a significant portion of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This was the 20th election held in the 20-year life of the Islamic Republic of Iran. With such a historical background, and on the firm foundation of their novel experience, the people of Iran call the people of the world to a viable and just peace, and invite all well-wishers of humanity and representatives of cultures and civilizations to a constructive dialogue.

For historical reasons, the ancient and great nations of Italy and Iran have had the opportunity to possess a safe venue for dialogue between cultures and civilizations. They can be a cradle for rebirth and creativity and a climate for the growth of institutions and relations through which mutual understanding, tolerance, equilibrium and coexistence can take form. One of our most important cultural and historical attributes is tolerance.

The entry and passage of various cultures through Iran, with its strategic geographic location, have provided our nation with a rich, multifaceted spirit, which in light of Islamic teachings has become even richer. This Islamic/Iranian tolerance can be observed in various cultural and civic works. In the past two decades, the Islamic revolution of Iran has been able to restore this political, cultural and economic equilibrium, which in recent centuries was subjected to serious disruptions as a result of relations between the east and the west and its flawed internal structures.

Based on the same tolerant Iranian/Islamic spirit, we are now attempting to understand our forgotten capabilities and drive benefits from others' achievements and fully utilize the principles and constructive results of modern civilization to shape a better future. If today, on an international level, talk of a dialogue among civilizations and cultures and elimination of tension is being heard from Iran, it is due to the Iranian spirit and is proportionate to the principles and foundations of a revolution which restored this tolerance to the people.

We believe that, with a critical assessment of the past and present, prospects for the world on the threshold of the third millennium can be defined through a proper balance, peaceful atmosphere, new order and system, based on mutual confidence between states and nations, naturally, in this regard, influential countries and governments play a more significance role.

Today, by depending on the same necessities and historical, cultural and political grounds, one can and must attend to promoting regional and international stability and peace. Considering the enormous disparity and lack of homogeneity that exist in the world, the attainment of a stable community brimming with global peace can be feasible on two levels. First, it is easier to strengthen a bloc of homogeneous countries, through which multilateral attempts can be made at creating shields against plans intended to dominate the world. Secondly, serious attention must be paid to strengthening international institutions, thus rendering them accountable to settling global conflicts and discriminations.

With respect to the first solution, undoubtedly, the future of the world, in light of mutual cooperation between the Islamic world and Europe on the one hand, and Iran and Europe on the other, will create a more desirable and hopeful image. The relationship between Europe, the Islamic world and the Middle East, which plays a key role in today's political world, is dependent on cooperation among regional countries. Fortunately, due to their historical background and areas of cooperation, mutual understanding, political and economic circumstances, Italy and Iran enjoy a key role in finding solutions in Europe and the Middle East.

Today, the world of Islam and the Middle East are facing a number of problems which threaten world peace; issues of Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and the presence of foreign military forces in the Persian gulf are such examples.

No doubt, for such serious dangers, one must find solutions in the framework of regional and global cooperation among countries opposing dominance and war, while respecting nations' independence and right to self-determination.

With respect to the second solution, challenging and resisting those who try to weaken international organizations and institutions, such as the United Nations, is of great significance. In order to achieve this objective, it is necessary to restructure this organization, strengthen its pillars, and define the level of the nations' share and cooperation.

A united world based on peace and tolerance is not a world dominated by superpowers. A world based on peace and tolerance entails equality of civil rights, a global civil society, international democracy, and universal freedom and justice.

I hope that Italy, Iran, Europe, the world of Islam and all other communities which have derived benefits from positive historical experiences, and are critical of the bitter results of human civilization will be able to play an effective and history-making role in the third millennium.

I thank you for your patience.''


Copyright © 1997 Abadan Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved. May not be duplicated or distributed in any form

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