Annan To Visit Tehran Despite Threat
Eli Lake, The NY Sun:
The U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, will go ahead with plans to visit Tehran, even after the Iranian president's call for Israel to be "wiped of the map."
The comments also weren't sufficient to win the Bush administration's backing for Israel's call to kick Iran out of the United Nations. READ MORE
Israel made the bid after the Iranian president threatened to destroy the Jewish state.
Asked about expelling Iran from the United Nations, a State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, told reporters, "What I think we would encourage instead is Iran to start behaving in a responsible manner as a member of the international community, cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, end its support for terror, and stop oppressing its own people."
Nonetheless, public statements intensified yesterday condemning the Iranian president for his remarks Wednesday at a conference devoted to the destruction of Zionism. In Britain, Prime Minister Blair came close to threatening force against the Islamic Republic. He said Tehran would not be allowed to become "a threat to our world security."
The latest flare-up between Israel and Iran in some ways is more significant for its timing than for the sentiment expressed by President Ahmadinejad. The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, regularly calls for the destruction of Israel, and government-affiliated militias openly recruit terrorists to target not only Israel but Jews living abroad.
This week's remarks from Mr. Ahmadinejad, however, come as Europe and America are moving closer to taking Iran's violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to the U.N. Security Council. Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency made a formal determination that the Islamic Republic was in violation of its commitment not to pursue nuclear technology for weapons programs, though the international organization has yet to refer these violations to the U.N. Security Council. In this time period, Mr. Ahmadinejad in particular has struck a defiant pose before the international community, threatening, for example, to continue enrichment activities despite prior agreements with European leaders to suspend them.
The prospect of an Iranian A-bomb combined with its threats to "wipe Israel off the map," have kicked Israel's diplomats into high gear. At Turtle Bay yesterday, Israel's ambassador, Daniel Gillerman, wrote to Secretary-General Annan, "It is appalling that a leader of a U.N. member state would call for the destruction of another member state."
Mr. Gillerman added, "This malicious statement warrants a resolute and strong response from the international community. No member state that calls for violence, death, and destruction, as the president of Iran did yesterday, deserves a seat in this civilized body, the United Nations."
While Mr. Annan did not respond directly to the letter yesterday, he did say that the statements from Mr. Ahmadinejad were a violation of the U.N. charter, which prohibits acts of or threats of transnational aggression. Nonetheless, Mr. Annan yesterday announced that he would go ahead with a visit to Tehran next month. A statement from his spokesman yesterday said, "The Secretary-General had already decided to visit Iran during the next few weeks, to discuss other issues. He now intends to place the Middle East peace process, and the right of all states in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force, at the top of his agenda for that visit."
The Iranian president is a former intelligence chief for the revolutionary guard, an organization that has funded and trained Lebanon's Hezbollah and Palestinian groups that recruit adolescents and turn them into suicide bombers against Israeli civilians. He has also been recognized by American hostages taken in 1979 as one of their interrogators and has been accused by Kurdish groups of plotting the assassination of their former leader in 1989.
As the international press focused this week on the Iranian president's threats against Israel, his crackdown on individual liberties intensified at home. This week, the regime enacted a new decree censoring movies. Also, the wife of dissident journalist Akbar Ganji told Rooz online this week that her husband has been beaten in Evin Prison since ending his hunger strike in August after being promised his release.
"My normal life is overwhelmed with Ganji's situation. On one hand is his condition, on the other is our miserable condition here," Massoumeh Shafieh said. "It seems that only a miracle can bring him out of Evin. Things cannot go on like this. I will reveal everything to this public, if this won't change soon."