Gov't working to keep UN's Ban from confab in Iran

Jerusalem trying to persuade nonaligned countries to boycott meeting or send junior representation.

Ban and Ahmadinejad 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ban and Ahmadinejad 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is redoubling efforts to get UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and leaders of friendly Non-Aligned Movement states to stay away from the NAM leadership summit in Tehran at the end of the month. The move follows Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s latest characterization of Israel as a “cancerous tumor” that needs to be wiped out.
Ahmadinejad delivered his speech on Friday at a Tehran rally held in honor of al-Qods (Jerusalem) Day, marked each year on the last Friday of Ramadan in accordance with a tradition established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late supreme leader of Iran.
Ahmadinejad referred to Israel as a Western “tool to dominate the Middle East,” and an “insult to all humanity.”
“Today, Israel and the Zionist entity are against the preservation of all human rights and human dignity,” IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying at the event.
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During the same speech, AFP quoted him as saying: “The Zionist regime and the Zionists are a cancerous tumor. Even if one cell of them is left in one inch of [Palestinian] land, in the future this story [of Israel’s existence] will repeat itself.”
Iranian Revolutionary Guards Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh also warned on Saturday that an Israeli strike on Iran would provoke a swift retaliation, allowing Tehran to “dump [Israel] into the dustbin of history.”
“If the loud cries of the leaders of the Zionist regime are materialized, it would be the best opportunity for obliterating this fake regime from the face of the earth and dump it into the dustbin of history,” Hajizadeh said, according to Iran’s English-language state television network Press TV.
Hajizadeh, who heads the Revolutionary Guards’ airborne division, said “it will be a great honor for combatants and defense forces of the Islamic Iran to realize the ideal of the annihilation of the Zionist regime and shape the new Middle East on the basis of the will of regional Muslim states.”
The Iranian state media reported over the weekend that protesters held massive rallies in cities across Iran on Friday, marking the anti- Zionist event which calls for the “liberation of Palestine.” Demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and held signs bearing slogans such as “Down with the US” and “Death to Israel.”
The Fars News Agency, which claims to be independent but which has close ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, reported that millions of people were expected to take part in the events in more than 550 cities throughout the country. The report added that the demonstration was not only against Israel and the US, but the silence of the international community at “the crimes committed in the occupied lands.”
Al-Qods Day rallies took place throughout the Muslim world on Friday.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reaffirmed his commitment to the Palestinian cause on Wednesday, stating that he is confident that “the fake Zionist [regime] will disappear from the landscape of geography,” Iran’s Mehr News Agency, which is owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization, reported.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon termed the Iranian leaders’ comments “offensive and inflammatory.”
“The secretary-general is dismayed by the remarks threatening Israel’s existence attributed over the last two days to the supreme leader and the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the UN press office said. “The secretary-general condemns these offensive and inflammatory statements.
“[Ban] believes that all leaders in the region should use their voices at this time to lower, rather than to escalate, tensions,” it said. “In accordance with the United Nations Charter, all members must refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
Jerusalem welcomed Ban’s statement.
One government official, however, said that it was important that, after issuing such a statement, “the secretary-general does not continue with business as usual.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a telephone conversation with Ban some 10 days ago, called on him not to attend the NAM summit scheduled for August 26 to 31. He said that such a move would give the Iranians badly craved legitimacy at a time when the country should be completely isolated.
Ban’s office has not said whether the secretary-general will attend the conference, at which Iran will assume chairmanship of the 120- state movement.
If Ban does attend the conference, the official said, it would badly “depreciate” his “strong and commendable” condemnation of Ahmadinejad’s recent tirade.
“Israel still views his proposed visit as a mistake,” he said.
Israel is working through its embassies abroad and through direct conversations with various leaders to persuade other NAM countries – some of which have good ties with Israel – to either boycott the meeting or to send only low level representation to send a strong message to Iran of an abhorrence of its polices.
In these messages, Israel is asking the NAM countries whether Iran is truly a country with which it wants to be associated, and reminding them that the Iranians have been involved in terrorist attacks in many countries that are part of the NAM.
For instance, in India the police have said the Iranians were behind the attack on the wife of an Israeli diplomat there earlier this year; three Iranians are in jail in Thailand for thwarted attacks there; and two Iranians are in jail in Kenya for the same reason.
“The whole idea that Iran is only the West’s problem is a fallacy,” the Israeli official said.
Iranian leaders were not the only ones threatening Israel over the weekend. On Friday Hezbollah said it possessed precision rockets that could kill “tens of thousands” of Israelis in strikes on Israel.
“I tell the Israelis that you have a number of targets, not a large number... that can be hit with precision rockets... which we have,” Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said in a broadcast speech. He said he would not identify the targets, and he did not say whether the rockets were newly acquired weapons.
Nasrallah said his group could strike a limited number of targets in Israel that if hit would lead to mass casualties – a possible reference to Israeli nuclear facilities.
“Hitting these targets with a small number of rockets will turn... the lives of hundreds of thousands of Zionists to real hell, and we can talk about tens of thousands of dead,” Nasrallah said.
He said Israel was still debating whether to attack Iran because “Iran was strong and brave.”
One Israeli official said that Hezbollah was merely a proxy for the Iranian regime, not the “Lebanese liberation movement” it has masqueraded as over the years, and that it was now threatening to “ignite the Israeli-Lebanese border to serve the interests of its masters in Tehran.”
The official said that “anyone with eyes in their head” understands that Hezbollah “is a brutal totalitarian terrorist organization” allied not only with Iran but also with the regime of Syria’s President Bashar Assad, to the extent that it is “on the ground killing innocent Syrian civilians.”
Ban was not the only one over the weekend to condemn Ahmadinejad’s comments. They were also slammed by the US and the EU.
US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told AFP, “We strongly condemn the latest series of offensive and reprehensible comments by senior Iranian officials that are aimed at Israel.”
He said that if Iran were concerned about human rights, it should stop supporting Assad’s “brutal assault on the Syrian people.”
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, meanwhile, called Ahmadinejad’s comments “outrageous and hateful.”
Ashton, the West’s chief negotiator over Iran’s nuclear program, issued a statement saying she “strongly condemns the outrageous and hateful remarks threatening Israel’s existence by the supreme leader and the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Israel’s right to exist must not be called into question.”
Joanna Paraszczuk and Reuters contributed to this report.