UN Chief Meets with Iranian Leaders—Discusses Nukes and Israel

Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Recent verbal attacks on Israel were a noteworthy part of the discussion between United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, with the nuclear program and Syria conflict also key talking points. According to comments posted on the UN website, Ban’s spokesman said the UN leader mentioned to Khamenei on Wednesday that “he strongly objected to recent remarks from Iranian officials denying the Holocaust and Israel’s right to exist. He said that such offensive and inflammatory statements were unacceptable and should be condemned by all.”

Ban spokesman Martin Nesirky said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received the same message, which Nesirky said was done “extremely forcefully.”

On the Iranian nuclear program, for which Tehran is under multiple sets of UN sanctions due to it’s refusal to fully cooperate on the matter, Ban told Ahmadinejad he “regretted that little tangible progress has been achieved so far” in the talks between Iran and the P5+1—the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany. Nesirky said he further noted Iran “needed to take concrete steps to address the concern of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and prove to the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.”

Ban sounded opposed to a military approach to dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, saying that “there is no alternative to a peaceful, diplomatic and negotiated settlement, which should be reached step by step and based on reciprocity.” He also said rhetoric from many sides on a military conflict with Iran has been “unhelpful” and “wants to see tensions lowered, not further raised,” according to Nesirky.

The discussions were “extremely detailed,” with both Ban and the Iranians listening “very carefully”, although Nesirky did not elaborate on the atmosphere of the talks much beyond that. He did note that on the nuclear issue Ban was there to share the concerns of the international community and not to negotiate.

Ban is in Iran for the Non-Aligned Movement summit, an annual event that brings together the 120 nations in the powerful UN voting block. The current chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Iran is hosting the summit this year.

Meanwhile, the same day Ban met with the Iranian leadership, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the attendance of nations in Tehran for the NAM summit in comments with a German official.

According to a press release, Netanyahu noted the NAM meeting involves 120 countries “saluting a regime that not only denies the Holocaust but pledges to annihilate the Jewish state, brutalizes its own people, colludes in the murder of thousands of innocent Syrians and leads millions in chanting ‘Death to America, death to Israel.’”

Contrasting this with the pledges of “never again” after the Holocaust, Netanyahu said that “many in the international community appear to have learned nothing. I think this is a disgrace and a stain on humanity.

“I’m glad that Germany is among those countries that refuse to take part in this charade and condemn us, because our common future is bound on standing up and confronting this inhumanity and this brutality.”

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, August 29, 2012)