United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s decision to attend a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Iran’s capital drew chagrin from the U.S. and continued opposition from Israel.
Ban, who will be in Tehran from Aug. 29-31, “takes seriously his responsibility and that of the United Nations to pursue diplomatic engagement with all of its member states,” the UN said yesterday in an e-mailed statement announcing his plans. He will convey “the clear concerns and expectations of the international community” on issues including the Iran’s nuclear program, according to the statement.
Hosting the summit next week in Tehran will reduce the Persian Gulf nation’s isolation and help it bypass international sanctions, the state-run Mehr News agency reported today, citing Industries, Mines and Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari. Ban condemned Iranian remarks threatening Israel’s existence, according to a UN statement on Aug. 17.
“We have no doubt that the Iranian regime will use the conference to cover up its crimes,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ilana Stein said today by phone from Jerusalem. “We expect those who have decided to go to make sure they do not fall into the Iranian propaganda trap and to make clear their positions regarding the actions of the ayatollahs’ regime.”
The U.S. has “concerns that Iran is going to manipulate this opportunity and the attendees to try to deflect attention from its own failings,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday in Washington.
“We are all going to watch and see how this proceeds and whether he takes the opportunity to make clear the concerns that the international community has about Iran’s behavior,” Nuland said at a regular press briefing. “He needs to take that opportunity if he’s chosen to go.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked Ban not to go to Tehran. The U.S. also told Ban that Iran was “a strange place and an inappropriate place” for the international meeting, Nuland said on Aug. 16.
Iran leads the so-called Non-Aligned Movement of 118 developing nations. Leaders including Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are scheduled to attend the gathering.
Mursi’s visit will be the first by an Egyptian president to Iran in 30 years and marks a sharp turn in relations between the two countries. Relations cooled after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, when the two nations only maintained low-level diplomatic ties for years.
Iran is under UN and international sanctions for its nuclear program. Countries including the U.S. and Israel say Iran is seeking the capability to develop atomic weapons and the effort must be halted. Iran says the program is for civilian purposes.