Shalev: Our main goal in NY is to focus on Iran

Shalev Our main goal at

By E.B. SOLOMONT, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT IN NEW YORK
September 22, 2009 00:14
4 minute read.

 
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As foreign heads of state converge at the UN General Assembly this week, Israeli leaders and diplomats will focus on the Iranian threat in speeches, high-level meetings and bilateral talks, while boycotting a speech by Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A major focus of participating leaders will be Thursday's summit-level Security Council meeting, to be chaired by US President Barack Obama, which will focus on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, set to arrive in New York late Monday, also has a busy schedule that includes meeting with Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday and addressing the General Assembly on Thursday. Netanyahu will not be present when Ahmadinejad addresses the gathering on Wednesday. "Our main goal at this crucial time is to show the world how dangerous Iran is," said Ambassador Gabriela Shalev, Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations, describing the expected focus of Netanyahu's speech to the General Assembly and planned meetings between Israeli diplomats and their counterparts. "We know this [Iran] is a dangerous country," she said. "We stress and we emphasize that Iran is not only a threat to Israel, it's a global threat." Israeli diplomats plan to hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly with countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France and others, she said. "This is a good opportunity to have foreign ministers and prime ministers meet with our leaders and make them understand in a one-on-one meeting our goals, the challenges Israel is facing in a very crucial time," Shalev said. Though Netanyahu will meet Tuesday with Obama and Abbas, the White House said on Monday that it had "no grand expectations" for the three-way meeting. According to press secretary Robert Gibbs, the Obama administration hopes to make progress toward resuming peace talks. So far, the Palestinians refuse to resume negotiations until Israel halts settlement construction. Netanyahu will not attend the opening session of the GA debate, however, to avoid being in the same hall as Ahmadinejad. Shalev said she would attend because it was her diplomatic assignment to be present when Obama spoke on Wednesday morning. "I will not allow any of our enemies to outcast us," she said. "When the president of the United States is addressing [the General Assembly] as the host country, the Israeli mission is going to be present." Shalev said she planned to stay when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi took the podium immediately following Obama's speech. "If it will be something we can't sit and listen to, we reserve the right to walk out," she said. But Shalev said she would not be present during the afternoon session when Ahmadinejad was slated to speak. "When Ahmadinejad speaks, we will not be there," she said. Indeed, Ahmadinejad's visit has roiled many, particularly in the wake of his speech last week at a Teheran rally marking al-Quds Day, when he said the Holocaust was a "lie" and that Israel's days were "numbered" and its regime was "dying." A New York hotel canceled a banquet booked by an Iranian student group after learning that Ahmadinejad was slated to speak at the September 24 event. The New York Helmsley Hotel said it had been unaware that he would be there until it was informed by the group United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI), the New York Post reported. "Neither the Iranian Mission nor President Ahmadinejad is welcome at any Helmsley facility," a spokesman for Helmsley Properties told the paper. In a letter to the hotel's general manager, UANI president Mark Wallace wrote, "By doing business with the Iranian government, the Helmsley is accepting blood money from a regime that brutally suppresses its own people and that is a danger to global security." UANI has also put pressure on the Intercontinental Hotel, where Ahmadinejad is staying during the General Assembly. In a statement, a spokeswoman for the hotel said the establishment was "fully committed to the safety, comfort and well-being of its guests and associates. In the interest of guest privacy, we are not at liberty to reveal or discuss the details of guests or groups staying at any of our properties." But on Monday, human rights advocates held at least three separate media events - including one organized by Human Rights Watch - protesting Ahmadinejad's appearance at the GA. "We condemn his recent comments," said Moe Alafchi, director of the Association of Iranian Americans in New York, which is planning to demonstrate Wednesday outside the UN. "The Iranian people are not supporting the current regime," he said, adding that his group appealed to countries attending the UN to leave when Ahmadinejad addressed the group. "We definitely never believed there was any real election in Iran… We don't want other governments legitimizing Ahmadinejad by talking to him or by being present at the UN General Assembly," he asserted. "In addition to that, and in conjunction with that, we are saying Iranian people want freedom and a democratic government."

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