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Less than a week after announcing that Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the United Nations, joined its board of directors, the United Nations Foundation has sent a high-level delegation to Israel and Jordan.
The delegation arrived in Israel at 6 a.m. on Sunday and held meetings with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other prominent figures.
Heading the delegation were its chairman, Ted Turner, the founder of the CNN Cable News Network, and Annan.
The UN Foundation tries to build public-private partnerships that address the world's most pressing problems.
"We've come here to see if we can help," said Turner.
"We are here to listen and to see what is going on in the region," Annan told Peres. "Peace is of great concern to all of us."
Annan reminded Peres of something the president often says, half in jest: "We live in a world where people want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. What we need is a tunnel."
Declaring his pleasure at seeing Peres in the role of president, Turner said: "You have been a beacon of light and a ray of hope in your whole career."
Asked by members of the delegation what the UN could do to advance peace and stability in the region, Peres said oil was a central factor in the quest for world peace. The UN could take long-range economic measures to reduce dependence on oil since it was a major contributor to global warming and to the financing of terrorism, he said.
There was no doubt, Peres said, that oil-rich regimes became corrupt and dictatorial, thus endangering world peace.
Iran's strength, he said, derived from the weakness and division of the West as reflected in its inability to imposition severe economic sanctions to pressure the Islamic Republic to end its nuclear program.
Peres said Europe was gradually realizing the perils posed by Iran. Europe was always right, but that Europe was always late, he said, citing European attitudes toward Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler as examples of Europe's tardiness. He expressed the hope that Europe would break this pattern with regard to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
As soon as he arrived at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem, Turner was asked his opinion about CNN being dropped by HOT cable television.
Turner said he hadn't been with CNN in a long time, although he was still emotionally attached and watched it frequently, and had no say in what goes on. It would be "a sad thing" if CNN was taken off the air in Israel, he said.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post whether he had come to invite Peres to join the board of the UN Foundation, which was established in 1998 with his billion-dollar gift, Turner said the foundation was not a membership organization, "but we'd love to have him if he'd like to join us."
The board's members include Queen Rania of Jordan.
Among the Israelis at the luncheon were former chief of General Staff and ex-government minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and Ron Pundak, director-general of the Peres Center for Peace and one of the architects of the Oslo Accords.
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