Sunday, October 30, 2005

Israel Slams Annan's Plan to Go Ahead with Iran Visit

Shlomo Shamir and Aluf Benn, Ha'aretz:
Israel on Sunday slammed plans by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to visit Iran, saying that the trip could grant legitimacy to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent call for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

"This sends a message of business-as-usual, and perhaps even grants legitimacy to a nation which demands the destruction of another state," said Danny Gillerman, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.

"I said this to the Secretary-General, as well," Gillerman told Israel Radio. "I very much hope that he will reconsider."

Ambassadors from UN Security Council member states have recommended to Annan that he call off next week's trip, Haaretz has learned. In private conversations, the ambassadors told Annan that his presence in a country whose leader has called for the destruction of another UN member would be misleading, and could be interpreted as contradicting the secretary-general's public condemnation of the remarks. READ MORE

Annan expressed "dismay" at the comments in a rare rebuke of a UN member state. Russia, a key ally of Iran, also summoned the Iranian ambassador seeking an explanation for Ahmadinejad's remarks.

In an apparent bid to calm the international fury ignited by Ahmadinejad's call for Israel's destruction, Tehran said on Saturday it stood by its UN commitments not to use violence against another country.

Bolton hopes Annan will 'consider' all factors

United States ambassador to the UN John Bolton has spoken publicly against Annan's planned visit to Iran at this time.

Speaking to Israel Radio, he stopped short of condemning the Annan visit, but said "We hope the secretary-general will take all the factors into account in considering whether he's going to undertake that trip."

Iran hit back Friday at the Security Council, after the body condemned Ahmadinejad's remarks. The Security Council issued a statement Friday reminding Iran that member states must refrain from threatening the use of force against each other.

"The statement by the president of the UN Security Council was proposed by the Zionist regime to close the eyes to its crimes and to change the facts, therefore it is not acceptable," Iran's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Iran is loyal to its commitments based on the UN charter, and it has never used or threatened to use force against any country," the statement added.

After the Security Council denounced Ahmadinejad's comments, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said: "The international support in defense of Israel clearly indicates the great improvement in Israel's international standing. The UN, for years a hostile arena, is taking a new position, decisively against those who threaten Israel."

Shalom said the next step would be the Security Council addressing the Iranian nuclear program.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said the international community was treating Iran unfairly, accusing it of not coming to Tehran's defense any time it comes under attack from the United States or Israel over claims it is developing nuclear weapons or supporting Islamic militants.

"How many sessions were held by the Security Council over the U.S. and Israeli threats against Iran?" the Foreign Ministry statement read.

Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's supreme national security council, said the intense opposition from the West to Ahmadinejad's comments stem from the campaign against its nuclear program. "The reactions to Ahmadinejad's comment showed that the diplomatic machines of some Western countries are influenced by the hue and cry of propaganda," state-run Iran radio said.