UN chief Ban in Tehran: Is he coddling Iran or just doing his job?
The decision by Ban Ki-moon to visit Iran for the non-aligned summit was criticized by the US and others, but the UN chief sees the trip as a chance to raise international concerns with the regime, as he did Wednesday.
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UN spokesman Farhan Haq said Tuesday that Ban will cite international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, its involvement in terrorism and the Syrian conflict, and the critical state of human rights in Iran in his discussions with Iranian officials.Skip to next paragraph
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And on Wednesday Ban followed through at a press conference with the speaker of Iran’s Parliament, Ali Larijani, saying the two had discussed how the UN could work with the Iranian government “to improve the human rights situation in Iran. We have our serious concerns on the human rights abuses and violations in this country."
Ban also met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shortly after arriving in Tehran and was expected to meet later with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The UN chief told his interlocutors that Iran should use its influence in Syria to help stop the violence.
Earlier, his spokesman, Mr. Nesirky, told reporters that his boss is “fully aware of the sensitivities” surrounding his visit, but he added that the UN chief sees it as his responsibility “to pursue diplomatic engagement with all [UN] member states in the interest of peacefully addressing vital matters of peace and security.”
There was little doubt, however, that Iran hoped to use both Ban’s visit and the NAM summit to show the world – and the Iranian people – that Western efforts to isolate it have failed.
Trying to position itself as a peacemaker, Iran said on Tuesday that it would use the NAM summit to promote the idea of a cease-fire in Syria, to be followed by talks between the warring parties. Iran’s oil minister, Rostam Qasemi, said Wednesday that Iran was using the large gathering of officials from NAM countries to negotiate oil contracts. The US is slapping sanctions not just on Iranian petroleum and financial institutions, but on countries that buy Iranian oil products. Earlier this summer the European Union implemented an embargo on Iranian oil imports.
What worries international human rights organizations is that the Iranian government will use the appearance of international acceptance of the regime to signal Iran’s human rights promoters that the world is on the government’s side.
Perhaps the loudest warnings about Iran’s goals in hosting the NAM summit – and the sharpest criticism of Ban for attending – came from Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it would be a “big mistake” for Ban to visit Tehran, especially given that Iranian officials continue to threaten Israel, a UN member.
Iranian officials counter that it is Israel that is threatening Iran with military attack over a nuclear program it insists has only peaceful purposes.
In any case, at least one country attending the NAM summit says it will not sit idly by if Iran uses the gathering to attack Israel. Australia says it has ordered its diplomats to walk out of the meeting on the first sign of Iran using its global stage to threaten Israel.