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Iran's charm offensive at NAM summit thwarted by Syria, nuclear work

Iran's effort to prove that international isolation efforts have failed was undermined by discord with the UN and Egypt over its nuclear work and continued support for Syria's President Assad.

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Delegates to the summit saw outside the venue the burnt vehicle remains, placed there by the government, in which Iranian scientists died when explosive charges were stuck to their cars with magnets by assassins on motorcycles. 

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But Iran's charm offensive and attempts to seize the high ground were dampened by the words of the UN chief and by Mohamed Morsi, the newly elected president of Egypt who became the first Egyptian leader to visit since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

In his speech, Mr. Ban told the Iranian leadership that, "for the sake of regional peace," it should cooperate fully with efforts by the UN nuclear watchdog agency to clear up remaining questions about alleged weapons-related work. He also called on Iran to fully comply with UN Security Council resolutions, which require at least a temporary halt to all uranium enrichment.

The speech echoed accounts of the meeting yesterday between a reportedly tough-talking Ban and Khamenei.

At the podium today, Ban scolded Iranian leaders as "utterly wrong" for describing UN-member Israel as having no right to exist, and for denying the events of the Holocaust. Ban also warned all sides to ease their rhetorical venom, which several times in the past year appeared to have brought Israel and Iran to the brink of conflict.

“I urge all the parties to stop provocative and inflammatory threats,” said Ban. "A war of words can quickly spiral into a war of violence. Bluster can so easily become bloodshed."

Regarding the Arab Spring, Ban said it had "come from within," by people "who stood up" for their rights. That view echoes Tehran, which praised the collapse of pro-West regimes last year in Egypt and Tunisia – as well as Muammar Qaddafi's Libya – as an "Islamic awakening."

The Syrian divide

But Ban and Morsi both veered from Iran's preferred script when discussing the antiregime uprising in Syria, Iran's closest ally in the Arab world, where an 18-month rebellion and government crackdown has left thousands dead.

Initial peaceful anti-government demonstrations were "met by ruthless force," Ban said. He called on all sides to stop giving arms, clearly referring to Russia and Iran on the side of President Bashar al-Assad, and to the US, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia on the side of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

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