UN chief to see Iran top leaders ahead of summit

TEHRAN: UN chief Ban Ki-moon was to meet Iran's top leaders
after arriving in Tehran on Wednesday on a visit hailed by the
Islamic republic as a diplomatic coup over arch-foes United
States and Israel.
But Ban, who was to go on to attend a summit of Non-Aligned
Movement (NAM) states on Thursday and Friday in Tehran,
was said to be determined to use his trip to call for Iran to
take "urgent" action over its disputed nuclear drive and its
human rights record.
In the meetings expected with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran's chief
nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, Ban will raise the "clear
concerns and expectations of the international community"
regarding "Iran's nuclear programme, terrorism, human rights
and the crisis in Syria," a UN spokesman said.
Although the UN secretary general is a regular attendee at
NAM summits which gather 120 developing nations accounting
for nearly two-thirds of the UN member states this year both
the United States and Israel criticised his presence.
The US State Department said such a visit "sends a very
strange signal with regard to support for the international
order," stressing that Iran was "in violation of so many of its
international obligations and posing a threat to neighbours."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month
told Ban he would be making "a big mistake" if he attended.
With Ban's announcement that he was going regardless, Iran
seized on his visit as a victory over its enemies and a sign it
was not so internationally isolated as the United States has
portrayed it.
Iran is engaged in a deepening showdown with the United
States and the rest of the UN Security Council over its
disputed nuclear programme. It has also been threatened with
possible air strikes on its nuclear facilities by Israel.
The West fears the programme is aimed at developing a
nuclear weapons break-out capability. Iran denies that, saying
its atomic activities are exclusively peaceful.
The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy
Agency, is expected to release its latest report on Iran's
nuclear programme this week perhaps concurrently with the
NAM summit.
The report is likely to highlight Iran's expanding uranium
enrichment activities which the UN Security Council has
repeatedly demanded be suspended as well as Tehran's
refusal to allow IAEA inspectors into a military site, Parchin,
suspected of hosting explosives tests for nuclear warhead
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012:

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