Iran official: UN chief finalized plans to attend Tehran summit
Press TV reports Ban Ki-moon and other UN representatives to attend Iran summit later this month; Israel fears visit will shatter attempts to isolate the Iranian regime and thwart its nuclear program.
An Iranian official said Monday that UN chief Ban Ki-moon has confirmed that he will be attending the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran this month, Iran's state-funded Press TV reported.
Mohammad-Reza Forqani, spokesman for the 16th NAM summit, was refuting Western reports about the UN chief's refusal to attend the summit.
“Despite claims by certain Western media, Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon has finalized his plans for a trip to Tehran and participation in the Non-Aligned Movement summit,” Press TV quoted Forqani as saying.
He said that a delegation of UN representatives will accompany the UN chief on his visit.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland commented Monday on the summit, saying that, "We, frankly, don't think that Iran is deserving of these high-level presences that are going there," but added that "these individual countries will make their own decisions at what level they choose to be represented. "
"We would hope and expect that those who choose to go will take the opportunity of any meetings that they have with Iran's leaders to press them to come back into compliance," she said.
Officials in Jerusalem and Washington believe that such a visit will shatter attempts to isolate the Iranian regime and will grant it renewed international legitimacy.
Israel has already conveyed its concerns to the Secretary General, saying that his visit will broadcast a message of “business as usual” to Tehran and would undercut international efforts against its nuclear drive. Responding on behalf of Ban, UN officials said that if he does decide to go, he will reiterate the UN opposition to any Iranian efforts to produce nuclear weapons.
In a carefully worded reaction, Ban’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky told Haaretz “we are aware of the reports on this matter but I cannot confirm them and I cannot comment on them.” Some officials at the UN said that Ban has yet to make up his mind whether to attend the summit or not, but other sources believe that the Secretary General is postponing an official announcement on his visit to Tehran until the last minute, in order to deflect external pressures to the contrary.
But knowledgeable sources confirmed to Haaretz the veracity of Iranian press reports on Ban’s expected arrival in Tehran, adding that the Secretary General’s office is already coordinating details of the visit, which is expected to last for a few days and to include meetings with both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will serve as chairman of the summit, and possibly with Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
The sources added that Ban’s participation will provide an international umbrella to a conference that is slated not only to uphold Iran’s right to an independent nuclear program, but to serve as a forum for vicious attacks against Israel as well. The summit is expected to voice support for the Palestinian bid for recognition at the upcoming UN General Assembly and to blast Israel’s recent decision to prevent five NAM foreign ministers from going to Ramallah to discuss the UN moves with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.