UN chief to visit Iran over US objections

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has decided to attend an international summit in Iran despite strong admonishments from U.S. and Israeli officials.

The United Nations said Wednesday that Ban's attendance at the 16th summit of the Cold War-era Non-Aligned Movement was evidence that he takes “his responsibility and that of the United Nations to pursue diplomatic engagement with all of the world body’s Member States” seriously. Iran is set to take the helm of the movement during the summit in Isfahan.

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The United Nations acknowledged U.S. and Israeli concerns that Ban's presence could hurt U.S.-led efforts to adopt international sanctions aimed at getting Iran to abandon its alleged nuclear weapons program, however.

“With respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Secretary-General will use the opportunity to convey the clear concerns and expectations of the international community on the issues for which cooperation and progress are urgent for both regional stability and the welfare of the Iranian people,” a U.N. spokesman told reporters in New York. “These include Iran’s nuclear programme, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) responded with a statement lambasting the UN amid reports that Iran is destroying evidence of its nuclear activities ahead of a possible visit by international inspectors.

“As Tehran again refuses to cooperate with the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the UN will legitimize Tehran through the Secretary General’s attendance of the upcoming Tehran summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, which the regime is exploiting as a propaganda victory," she said. "Instead of acting to address the growing Iranian threat to international security, the UN is again part of the problem, not the solution."

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations panel on Near Eastern Affairs, wrote to Ban on Friday urging him not to attend. 

“Iran has not complied with its obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency, is an active state sponsor of terrorism and continues to support the murderous regime of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad,” Casey wrote. “I am concerned that your presence in Tehran could serve to legitimize the actions of this regime at a critical time in the region and urge you to reconsider attending this conference.”

The full text of Casey’s letter is below:  

The Honorable Ban Ki-Moon

Secretary General

The United Nations

New York, New York

Dear Mr. Secretary General:

As the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern, South and Central Asian Affairs, I am writing to strongly urge you not to attend the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Iran scheduled for later this month. Iran has not complied with its obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency, is an active state sponsor of terrorism, and continues to support the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad. I am concerned that your presence in Tehran could serve to legitimize the actions of this regime at a critical time in the region and urge you to reconsider attending this conference. 

Based on the adoption of United Nations Resolution 1929, the membership of the UN found Iran in violation of its international commitments to the IAEA and subjected the country to multilateral sanctions. Resolution 1929 built on the UN’s long record of resolutions on Iran’s nuclear program, including Resolutions 1737, 1747, and 1803. Through these resolutions, the UN has frozen the assets of more than 80 Iranian persons and entities, prohibited the transfer of nuclear, missile, and dual use items to Iran, and prohibited Iran from exporting arms or WMD-useful technology. These resolutions exemplify the UN membership’s unity in opposing the credible threat posed by Iran.

As you know, Iran is also an active supporter of terrorism outside its borders.  The U.S. Department of State has designated Iran a State Sponsor of Terrorism each year since 1984, and in a recent report said that Iran had increased its terror-related activity in 2011.  The State Department also reported that Iran continues to provide financial, material, and logistical support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.  This sustained and documented support for international terrorism activities should not be condoned under any circumstances.  The international community should speak with one voice against Iran’s use of terrorism and should not participate in any forum that lends credibility to the regime.

Today Iran is the strongest supporter of the Assad regime in Damascus, which continues a sustained assault against the Syrian people.  On August 14, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that there is an indication that Iran is trying to train a militia in Syria.  The brutal Assad dictatorship has been denounced by the international community, including key members of the United Nations.  The UN has played an important role in attempting to bring an end to the conflict in Syria, but I am very concerned that your presence in Tehran could send precisely the wrong message to aspiring democrats in Syria and across the region struggling for human dignity and political freedom.

The United Nations has afforded an important forum for the nations of the world to unite in opposition to Iran’s contravention of international norms and failure to adhere to its commitments to international bodies.  You have provided leadership of this body at a critical time in world history. I urge you to continue to lead and decline this invitation to Tehran.                                               

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

Chairman

Subcommittee for Near Eastern, South and Central

Asian Affairs

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations