Netanyahu Asks UN Head Ban Ki-moon to Cancel Visit to Tehran Conference

PM argues that Ban's participation in Non-Aligned Movement summit would reward Iranian obstinacy and grant legitimacy to regime, which openly calls for annihilating Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to cancel his plans to participate in a conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, schedule to take place in Tehran in late August.

"Your trip to Iran is a big mistake, even if it is being done out of good intentions," Netanyahu told Ban in a telephone call, according to the Prime Minister's Office.

Netanyahu said Ban had "acted fairly" during his years leading the UN, adding, "Thus, I was so disappointed to hear about your trip to the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Tehran."

Founded in 1961, the Non-Aligned Movement was created by developing countries seeking to steer a middle course during the Cold War. While the organization has 120 member states and 21 observer countries, only some 31 heads of state are scheduled to attend the Tehran conference, according to Iranian media reports.

The prime minister said he saw no reason to visit a country whose government is anti-Semitic and openly declares its intention to destroy Israel. He noted recent statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about "annihilating the Zionist entity," as well as similar statements by his vice president at a recent UN conference.

Netanyahu argued that a visit by the UN secretary-general to Tehran would lend legitimacy to a regime "that represents the greatest danger to world peace." He added that "Iran continues to develop its nuclear weapons program, despite UN Security Council decisions and repeated calls to reach a diplomatic solution."

He added that Iran is conducting a campaign of terrorist attacks against Israel, including the recent attack in Burgas, Bulgaria in which 5 Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed. Netanyahu blamed that attack on Hezbollah, calling it the "long arm of Iran."

Netanyahu also said such a trip would reward "Iranian obstinancy and grant legitimacy to a regime that calls for and openly acts to destroy Israel – a UN member state," while sullying the reputation of the secretary general and the organization he represents.

"Mister secretary-general, your place is not in Tehran," said Netanyahu.