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publish date : 8 Sunday May 2011      12:45

Middle East in transition

Mohammad Khazaee has served as Iran's permanent representative to the United Nations since July 2007. In the previous five years, he held several positions in international development financing, serving as vice-minister for International Affairs and as president of the Organization for Economic and Technical Assistance in Iran's Ministry of Economic Affairs.

In that period, he also served as governor of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries fund, vice chairman of that organization's investment committee, as alternate governor for the Islamic Development Bank and as a board member of the Iran-Misr (Iran-Egypt) Development Bank. From 1988 to 2002, he

represented his country at the World Bank. From 1981 to 1988, Khazaee was a member of parliament, where he served as rapporteur of the Economic Committee (1982-1988) and the Banking Reform Committee (1981-1982).

Khazaee has a BA in business administration from the University of Guilan, in Iran's northern province of Gilan. He also holds a master's degree in international transactions from George Mason University in the United States, and has taught macroeconomics and philosophy at Tehran's Allameh Tabatabai University.

He was born in Kashmar, Iran in 1953, is married and has three children.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi talked with Mohammad Khazaee on Iran's role in the "new Middle East".

Kaveh L Afrasiabi: Your Excellency, how does Iran interpret the massive currents of change engulfing the Middle East?

Mohammad Khazaee: We believe that the political transformation of the Middle East is long overdue and that the region as a whole is in the midst of a process of political and social self-transformation according to its own needs and priorities. Therefore, it is appropriate to speak of a new Middle East that is relying on its dynamic population and their religion, culture and history to address the various obstacles that are partly imposed by outside forces and that hinder the region's progress and dilute its identity. There are of course serious challenges ahead that can only be resolved by unity, independence, and regional cooperation as a hallmark of the region's identity.

KA: What is Iran's view of the profound changes gripping Egypt today and are you optimistic about the prospects for normalization of relations between Iran and Egypt.

MK: I am optimistic about the future of Iran's relations with Egypt. As two oldest nations in the Middle East, Iran and Egypt are bounded by cultural, historical and religious ties. They should work together in addressing various regional and international issues that are in the national interests of both countries. Tehran and Cairo can definitely upgrade their bilateral relations and at the same time cooperate within the multilateral frameworks such as the Non-Aligned Movement, to enhance the region's standing in the international community. We are for sure committed as a principle to a brand new chapter in our relations with the new Egypt.

KA: What is your assessment of the role of Western governments including the United States with respect to the revolutionary changes in the Middle East?

MK: We have repeatedly warned against the application of double standards and the continuation of failed hegemonic practices that have resulted in decades of support for illegitimate rulers who were subservient to foreign interests. Unfortunately, despite lip service to the cause of democracy and respect for the will of people, some of those governments in the West have failed to adapt to the requirements of the new Middle East, which demands an end to those double standards. People of the Middle East have acquired a new level of political sophistication and are wary of hidden motives behind empty rhetoric and inconsistencies that speak volumes about what is wrong with the Western approach toward the Middle East.

KA: In your opinion, what are the key issues confronting the Middle East today?

MK: There are both political and economic issues, such as responsible and accountable form of government as well as issues of economic modernization, that top the list. The problems of economic prosperity in today's world economy, poverty, unemployment, technology gap, etc. These are tied in with the problems of unrepresentative governments, corruption, and foreign dependency. What is needed is a holistic approach based on a long-term strategy that operates at national, regional, and international levels, in order to achieve the optimum results for the region and its proud inhabitants.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here. He is author of Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008).


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