UN’s Ban to attend Iran summit, over US, Israeli requests

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United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will attend a conference in Tehran next week, over the objections of Israel and the United States, his spokesman said Wednesday.

“In Tehran, Ban will raise Iran’s nuclear program, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria,” Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky told journalists at the UN Wednesday.

Ban will visit Iran for three days, August 29-31, to participate in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, Nesirky said. He will also hold discussions with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Some 30 leaders are expected to attend the 16th NAM summit, including Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.The non-aligned movement is a Cold War legacy, comprised of some 120 countries that were ostensibly independent of the US or Soviet blocs.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had publicly lobbied Ban to reject the invitation, in an effort to signal Iran’s growing isolation over its nuclear program. The State Department more recently also encouraged Ban to skip the meeting, though its protests seemed a bit pro forma. (US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, now traveling in India, also had urged Ban not to go, InnerCityPress reported.)

Ban “was fully aware of the sensitivities, and fully aware of the responsibilities” in choosing to attend the meeting, Nesirky said Wednesday, the New York Times reported.

Whatever diplomatic victory Iran may claim from Ban’s RSVP, his discussions with Iranian leaders are likely to be tense.  P5+1 negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program have made little progress, and the UN International Atomic Energy Agency is due to issue a new report on Iran’s nuclear program at the end of the month.

A firm date has not yet been finalized for an anticipated phone call between chief international nuclear negotiator, EU High Rep Catherine Ashton and Iran’s Saeed Jalili, to discuss how to proceed, a European Union spokesperson told Al Monitor Wednesday.

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Blame it on Rio? Israeli delegate says Iran’s Ahmadinejad waved at them

Much to their surprise, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly nodded and waved to the Israeli delegation as he passed by them to address the Rio+20 United Nations Sustainable Development summit held in Brazil June 20-22.

“To the surprise of the Foreign Ministry officials, when the lunatic and his people rose from their seats, they broke with tradition and passed by us rather than go through a detour,” Israeli Knesset Member Shama  Hacohen wrote on his Facebook page, the Algemeiner newspaper reports.

“Despite the sign that says ‘Israel’ on my desk and the lapel pin on my jacket, he nodded and smiled toward us,” Hacohen wrote, explaining, according to the paper, that “the Iranians’ normal procedure is to take a detour around Israeli representatives, instead of walking past them directly.”

Meantime, Ahmadinejad was taking heat from Iranian lawmakers for not leaving Brazil after reportedly being snubbed by Brazil’s president. Banners saying “Ahmadinejad go home” greeted the controversial Iranian leader upon his arrival in the city June 20th, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff reportedly declined to meet with the Iranian president, who said last week that he will leave politics after his second presidential term expires next year.

“After the disrespect Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was met with in the airport of Brazil, he should have returned to Tehran, MP Avaz Heydarpour of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee said, Mehr reported,” Iran’s Trend news wrote. Continue reading