US eyes Iran summit of non-aligned nations warily

August 20, 2012 - 5:45 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration said Monday that Iran doesn't deserve to host a summit of non-aligned nations later this month but urged foreign leaders who decide to attend to press the Iranian government comply with international demands to come clean about its nuclear program.

The State Department predicted Iran would use the Non Aligned Movement summit in Tehran to advance its own agenda and shift attention from its defiance of requirements to prove it is not trying to develop atomic weapons. The department also condemned anti-Israel comments made by Iranian officials last week.

"Iran is going to try to manipulate this NAM summit and the attendees to advance its own agenda and to obscure the fact that it is failing to live up to multiple obligations that it has to the U.N. Security Council, the IAEA and other international bodies," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

"So we frankly don't think that Iran is deserving of these high-level presences that are going there," she said.

But, she added, "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."

Several foreign leaders, including Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have already said they will attend the summit, which is being held in Tehran from Aug. 26 to 31.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is reportedly considering attending and the State Department said last week that his presence would send a "strange signal" given that Iran is flouting numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions on the nuclear issue.

The Non Aligned Movement was born in 1961 at the height of the Cold War and was intended to be bloc of nations that sided neither with NATO nor the Warsaw Pact. It currently has 120 members.

The U.S. has said previously that Iran is an "inappropriate" venue for the meeting, a position hardened by comments that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made on Friday in which he said that Israel's existence is an "insult to all humanity." He said confronting Israel is necessary to "protect the dignity of all human beings."

Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, denounced the comments.

"These remarks are offensive and reprehensible and the entire international community should condemn such rhetoric," she said. "These threats are not new and they demonstrate that Iran continues to be a threat to the region and the world, and we must continue to pressure Iran until it resolves international concerns about its nuclear program and other issues."