“Mr. Secretary-General, your place is not in Tehran,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu bluntly told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday afternoon.
The comment came at the end of a phone conversation Netanyahu had with Ban to dissuade him from attending a summit of Non-Aligned Movement members in Tehran at the end of the month. Netanyahu said such a trip would stain both Ban and the organization he heads.
Iran currently holds the chairmanship of NAM, a group of some 120 nations that claim not to be aligned with any major world power bloc. Netanyahu’s conversation is the peak so far of Israeli efforts to convince as many countries as possible to not attend the meeting, or – at the very least – send only low-level representation.
Diplomatic officials said a number of countries had indicated that they would be willing to send low-level representatives, but that this would be much more difficult to justify if Ban attended the parley.
According to the officials, a number of countries have said that while they understand Israel’s concern about the meeting giving legitimacy to the anti-Semitic regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they were keen on preserving the Non-Aligned Movement framework.
Netanyahu, in his conversation with Ban, said going to Iran would be a grave mistake even if done with “good intentions.” He said there was no reason to go to a state which is anti-Semitic and has set as its goal the destruction of Israel.
Netanyahu said he was especially disappointed to hear of Ban’s plans to attend the conference, since he believes Ban has acted “reasonably” during his period as UN chief.
“Even if it is not your intention, your visit will grant legitimacy to a regime that is the greatest threat to world peace and security,” the prime minister said. “Not only does it threaten countries throughout the Middle East, not only is it the greatest terror exporter in the world, but it is impossible to exaggerate the danger it presents to Israel.”
Netanyahu reminded Ban that only last week Ahmadinejad said that all freedom-loving countries in the world must unite to destroy the “Zionist entity.”
The prime minister also reminded Ban of the anti- Semitic tirade unleashed in June by Iran’s vice president Vice President Mohammad- Reza Rahimi during a UN-sponsored conference on drugs where he blamed Zionists for the international drug trade, the Bolshevik revolution and the murder of black babies, and added that the Talmud calls for the destruction of everyone opposed to Judaism.
Netanyahu also pointed out to Ban that in May the Iranian chief of staff said that his country was committed to the destruction of Israel.
“That is what the Iranian regime says, and this is what it does: It wages an international terrorism campaign in 24 countries on five continents, including the recent murderous terror attack in Bulgaria that was carried out by its long arm – Hezbollah. It arms Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad so their emissaries will continue to fire thousands of missiles on Israeli cities and citizens,” the prime minister said.
Iran, Netanyahu, said, continues to move forward with its nuclear program despite Security Council resolutions and efforts at finding a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue.
“To reward Iran for its impudence by a visit of the UN secretary-general would be a horrible mistake,” he said.