U.N. Chief’s Presence at Tehran Summit Sends Wrong Message, Says State Dep't

By Patrick Goodenough | August 17, 2012 | 4:44am EDT

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is being urged not to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran later this month. (UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe)

(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration said Thursday that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s presence at a summit of developing nations hosted by Iran later this month would “not send a good signal,” but stopped short of publicly urging him not to go.

“I think our expectation would be that if he goes at this time that he will use the visit to make the point about our broad concern as an international community and the U.N.’s concern about the number of aspects of their U.N. obligations that Iran is flouting,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a press briefing.

Asked whether the U.S. would prefer that Ban did not attend the Aug. 26-Aug. 31 Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran, Nuland replied, “He’s going to make his own decision. We’ve made our views known that we think that this is a strange place and an inappropriate place for this meeting.”

Ban has not yet confirmed he plans to take part in the summit, although Iranian state media say he will. U.N. spokesmen have repeatedly declined to comment.

U.S. taxpayers account for 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget, and the administration has repeatedly stressed the importance of America paying its “dues” in full and on time.

Nuland said the U.S. has also made clear its views of the inappropriateness of the venue to other governments planning to attend the event.

“The fact that the meeting is happening in a country that’s in violation of so many of its international obligations and posing a threat to neighbors, etcetera, sends a very strange signal with regard to support for the international order, rule of law, etcetera,” she said.

“And we’ve made that point to participating countries; we’ve also made that point to secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.”

As reported earlier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not only hosting the summit but is also assuming the rotating chairmanship of the NAM for the next three years.

In the absence of a permanent secretariat, the government at the helm has a key role in driving the agenda of the organization. (Cuba’s 2006-2009 chairmanship was characterized by U.S.-bashing.  A declaration at its Havana summit in 2006 was laden with veiled criticism of the U.S., with references to “unilateralism,” “hegemony,” attempts to impose a “unipolar world” and the need to “transform the present unjust international order.”)

Much of NAM’s more significant activities take place at the United Nations, where it 120 members together make up almost two-thirds of the General Assembly. For the next three years, Iran’s mission to the U.N. in New York will coordinate NAM activities in the world body.

Iranian politicians have said hosting the summit and chairing NAM demonstrates the failure of U.S.-led attempts to isolate it in the international community, and also provides the opportunity to undermine sanctions imposed over its suspect nuclear program.

“The Non-Aligned Movement in Iran will symbolize the Islamic Republic’s strength and successful diplomacy in the international arena,” lawmaker Abed Fattahi said Thursday.

Iran’s foreign ministry says more than 40 countries have confirmed they will attend at head of state, head of government, or ministerial level. Among those attending at the highest level are countries that have close ties to the U.S., including India and Turkey …

NAM’s membership includes countries hostile to the West, such as Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea, but also some key American allies and the biggest recipients of U.S. funding.

‘Brutal political repression’

Iran’s opposition Green Movement warned NAM member-states this week that the regime will use its chairmanship of the bloc “for illegitimate political purposes and as a ploy to perpetuate further repression.”

A statement by the Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope, which describes itself as the opposition movement’s highest decision-making body, cited an “official policy of brutal political repression in Iran,” and urged NAM governments to take this into account “while considering their participation at the conference in Tehran, or its level.”

Ban has been traveling in Asia, but his spokesmen have at least four times over the past week declined to comment on the Iranian claims that the secretary-general will attend the NAM summit.

“We are not commenting on any proposed trips for the time being,” deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said in New York on Wednesday. “I can continue repeating that if you like; I’ve been doing it for the past few days.”

Pressed for a yes or no answer, del Buey replied, “You can’t nail me down; I’m like a bowl of Jello.”

Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a phone conversation appealed to Ban not to go, saying his participation would “grant legitimacy to a regime that is the greatest threat to world peace and security.”

Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League have also urged Ban to stay away.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called for a boycott of the summit by NAM governments which “value international law and justice, support the implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, reject terrorism and its sponsors and abhor human rights violations.”

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