U.N. chief to visit Iran in defiance of U.S., Israel

August 24, 2012

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 22 (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend a summit meeting of leaders of non-aligned developing nations in Iran next week, defying calls from the United States and Israel to boycott the event, a U.N. spokesman said on Wednesday.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters that Ban will be in Tehran Aug. 29-31 for a meeting of some 120 non-aligned nations, and for bilateral talks with senior Iranian officials.

“With respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Secretary-General will use the opportunity to convey the clear concerns and expectations of the international community,” he said. “These include Iran’s nuclear program, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria.”

Ban is “fully aware of the sensitivities” linked to his visit, but he is also aware of his responsibilities as head of the United Nations, Nesirky said.

He noted that non-aligned nations comprise two-thirds of all U.N. member states.

One of Ban’s responsibilities is “to pursue diplomatic engagement with all … (U.N.) member states in the interest of peacefully addressing vital matters of peace and security,” Nesirky said.

He added that Ban hoped to have “meaningful and fruitful discussions” with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other top members of the Iranian government.

A U.N. Security Council diplomat said privately that it was important for the secretary-general to go. He said Ban should not turn his back on the entire non-aligned movement because one member, Iran, happens to have a president who doubts the Holocaust and questions Israel’s right to exist.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, but Western powers and their allies fear it is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Ban will raise this issue and Iranian leaders’ anti-Israel remarks at bilateral meetings with Iranian officials on the sidelines of the non-aligned summit, envoys said.

Iran has been hit with four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to halt its nuclear enrichment program.

The Tehran summit, which Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi also will attend, takes place Sunday through Friday. Mursi is the first Egyptian head of state to visit Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

To read more, visit: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/22/iran-summit-un-idINL2E8JM4YI20120822

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