Thursday, August 24, 2006

Annan Defies US With Plan to Visit Iran and Syria

James Bone, The Times Online:
Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, is to make his first trip to Iran since President Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be wiped off the map, UN sources said yesterday.

The UN chief is planning the controversial stop in Tehran next week in spite of strenuous American objections, even though the Iranian leader has urged the destruction of another UN member state.

The world’s top diplomat wants to visit Iran as part of a diplomatic swing through the Middle East to pin down a peace deal on Lebanon. READ MORE

Syria, which is under UN investigation for the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, is also on his tentative itinerary. A US official said that Washington had made clear to Mr Annan that it did not want him to visit Iran or Syria.

Mr Annan was forced to cancel a scheduled trip to Iran last November after the newly elected Iranian President first called for the elimination of Israel.

His decision was heavily influenced by an appeal from Congressman Tom Lantos, a personal friend who was saved from the Holocaust by the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, the uncle of Mr Annan’s wife.

He pointed out that “under the United Nations Charter, all members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of any state”.

UN aides have urged Mr Annan to go ahead with the trip, even though Iran and Syria are the subject of Security Council scrutiny.

The 15-nation council has ordered a halt in arms shipments to Hezbollah, which both Syria and Iran supply. Syria has been implicated by a Security Council-mandated investigation into the bomb explosion that killed Mr Hariri last year. Iran faces the threat of UN sanctions if it fails to meet a Security Council deadline of next Thursday to stop enriching uranium in what the West fears is part of a clandestine nuclear weapons programme. The US said yesterday that Iran’s proposals for nuclear negotiations fell short of UN demands. Along with Britain, France and Germany, it is lobbying Mr Annan to stand firm in urging Iranian compliance with the Security Council’s demand for a suspension of uranium enrichment.