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News | Iran's Leaders Challenged on Human Rights, Syria at NAM Summit

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

31 Aug 2012 06:40Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

13910609195828703_PhotoL.jpg 6:40 a.m. IRDT, 10 Shahrivar/August 31 The conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), whose 120 member states represent the largest bloc in the United Nations, is entering its sixth and final day. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who arrived in Tehran on Wednesday, has met with Majles Speaker Ali Larijani and a group of legislators, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Saeed Jalili, secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. Martin Nesirky, Ban's chief spokesman, described the sessions as "very serious meetings."

Criticism of the state of human rights in Iran

After meeting with Larijani immediately after his arrival, Ban participated in a press conference during which he criticized the state of human rights in the Islamic Republic. "We have discussed how [the] United Nations can work together with Iran to improve the human rights situation in Iran. We have our serious concerns on the human rights abuses and violations in this country," Ban said. Larijani, who was seated beside him, frowned at the remarks. As I noted last week, the Iranian opposition called on Ban to protest the gross violations of human rights in the country and demand a meeting with opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi. Unconfirmed reports from Tehran indicate that Ban made the request, but was turned down.

Perhaps in reaction to having been prevented from meeting with the Green Movement leaders, Ban declined to meet with the families of three Iranian nuclear scientists who have been assassinated over the past 30 months. The website Bultan (Bulletin) News, which is linked to Iranian security and intelligence units, reported that the families of Dariush Rezaeinejad, Masoud Ali Mohammadi, and Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan unsuccessfully tried to meet with Ban.

Former U.S. assistant secretary of state attends Khamenei meeting

At his meeting with Khamenei, Ban was accompanied by U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman. Before joining the U.N., Feltman served as U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs from August 2009 to June 2012, and as ambassador to Lebanon from July 2004 to January 2008 -- in which post he came in for repeated criticism from Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. He previously served at the Coalition Provisional Authority office in Irbil during the U.S. occupation of Iraq (January to April 2004) and at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, where he was deputy principal officer (August 2001 to November 2002) and then acting principal officer (November 2002 to December 2003).

During the meeting with Ban, Khamenei said that Iran was ready to do what it can to help with the Syrian situation, but added, "The bitter reality about Syria is that a group of governments have forced the Syrian opposition to wage a war with Syria's government on their behalf; such a war is the current reality in Syria."

Ban urges Iran to resolve nuclear standoff, denounces rhetoric on Israel

Addressing the leaders of the NAM conference on Thursday, Ban called on Iran to resolve international concerns about the nature and intended purpose of its nuclear program. According to the official transcript provided by the secretary-general's office, Ban stated,

There is no threat to global peace and harmony more serious than nuclear proliferation.

Assuming the leadership of the NAM provides Iran with the opportunity to demonstrate that it can play a moderate and constructive role internationally. That includes responsible action on the nuclear programme which is among the top concerns of the international community.

This concern has been demonstrated in repeated Security Council resolutions, including under Chapter VII authority, calling for transparency and full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

For the sake of peace and security in this region and globally, I urge the Government of Iran to take the necessary measures to build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.

This can be done by fully complying with the relevant Security Council resolutions and thoroughly cooperating with the IAEA.

I urge, also, constructive engagement with the P5+1 [the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany] to quickly reach a diplomatic solution.

And I urge all the parties to stop provocative and inflammatory threats.

A war of words can quickly spiral into a war of violence. Bluster can so easily become bloodshed.

In an implicit, but unmistakable criticism of Iran's leadership, Ban condemned the rhetoric employed by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad concerning Israel. "I strongly reject threats by any [U.N.] member state to destroy another, or outrageous comments to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust," he told the NAM leaders. "Claiming that another U.N. member state, Israel, does not have the right to exist or describing it in racist terms is not only utterly wrong, but undermines the very principles we have all pledged to uphold." Ban's full speech can be heard here.

Ban's official photographer banned from "sensitive places"

The conservative Blogh website reported that Iran did not allow Ban's official photographer to accompany him to "sensitive sites." The reason given by officials, according to an "informed source," was that Iranian intelligence believes that he is linked to Western intelligence agencies.

Morsi parts ways with Islamic Republic over Assad

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who took part in the NAM summit to the chagrin of American and Israeli officials, strongly condemned the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, denouncing it as "oppressive" and proclaiming his solidarity with the Syrian opposition. Morsi said, "The bloodletting in Syria is the responsibility of all of us and we should know that this bloodletting cannot stop without active intercession by all of us to stop this." He asked Iran to help end the bloodshed. An excerpt from his speech may be heard here. The United States has supported the positions taken by Ban and Morsi in Tehran.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem walked out of the summit hall in protest during the speech by Morsi, whom Moallem accused of "interference in Syrian affairs" and instigating bloodshed in the country. Al-Alam, Iran's Arabic-language television channel, claimed that Moallem had simply left the hall to speak to its reporter.

Morsi had a private meeting with Ahmadinejad during which, according to the Iranian press, they discussed Syria; no details were made public. The Egyptian president did not meet with Khamenei, but did so with former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, who is now Khamenei's senior foreign policy adviser. Morsi returned to Egypt a few hours after delivering his speech to the summit.

Translation of Morsi's speech manipulated by Iran state media

While Morsi was denouncing Syria's regime, the translator for Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting was busy altering his speech. As the Egyptian president was condemning Assad, the translator simply stopped translating. When Morsi referred to the developments in Syria as a "revolution" -- "enghelab," in Farsi -- the translator instead used the word "fetneh" (sedition), the same term that Khamenei and other regime hardliners use for the Green Movement.

Several hardline media outlets attacked Morsi. A story on Jahan News, the website run by Majles deputy and former Revolutionary Guard commander Ali Reza Zakani, called his statements about the Assad regime "strange" and "baseless," and said he took "extreme and irrational positions against Syria." Asr-e Iran and Baztab-e Emrooz, two other conservative websites, also criticized his statements about the Syrian regime. The Basij groups at several Tehran universities sent a letter to Morsi in which they declared that "they were stunned by his positions" and advised him to "reconsider his government's policy about Syria."

Meanwhile, Mehr News Agency, which is owned by the Organization for Islamic Propaganda, accused the Western powers of reporting only selected parts of Morsi's speech. Mohammad Javad Larijani, the Iranian judiciary's human rights chief (and the Majles speaker's older brother), said that the fact that Ban and Morsi could both express positions in opposition to Iran's indicates the Islamic Republic's "high patience and tolerance." He did not explain how Iran might have prevented them from voicing their views.

Rafsanjani attends speech with Ban and Morsi

Khamenei delivered a speech to the summit in which he strongly criticized the United States. His speech was attended by Ban, Morsi, and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. A picture of the three sitting together has attracted wide attention. The Iranian press reported that "Ban did not want to miss any important point" of Khamenei's speech and took many notes.

Mesbah Yazdi: NAM ineffective

Meanwhile, an editorial on Bibak News, the website that is close to the hardline cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, said that the NAM is an ineffective movement and under the thumb of the West. "Some of the member states are puppets of the arrogant powers. They do not believe in themselves, and quarrel with each other, which has prevented the Movement from reaching the summit of its power and influence," the editorial stated.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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