UN chief: 'Not appropriate time' to visit Iran; cites 'ongoing controversy.'
By HERB KEINON
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has canceled a trip to Iran following the international furor caused by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel's destruction.
Annan decided it is "not an appropriate time" for him to go to Iran, citing the "ongoing controversy" over Ahmadinejad's remarks last week, according to a statement from the secretary-general's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.
Ahmadinejad called on October 26 for Israel to be "wiped off the map," and has since defended those words. Annan's office issued a statement following that comment saying that the UN secretary-general read Ahmadinejad's comments "with dismay."
The statement also said that Annan planned to visit Iran "to discuss other issues," but would now "place the Middle East peace process, and the right of all states in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force, at the top of his agenda for that visit."
But Annan's plan to visit Teheran raised many eyebrows. Both the Israeli and US ambassadors to the UN urged Annan to reconsider this decision, as did some US congressmen.
Iran's official news agency IRNA, however, had a different take on the events, reporting that Iran itself asked for the postponement through its UN embassy. It cited an Iranian foreign ministry source as saying the postponement had "no connection" to Ahmadinejad's comment.
Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem expressed satisfaction at Annan's dropping the trip, saying that following the UN Security Council's condemnation of the statement, "there was no place to give any type of legitimacy to this regime."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said that Israel "welcomes the international community's wall-to-wall condemnation of the Iranian president's statement, and the fact that many world leaders have decided they can't continue their relations with Iran as if it were business as usual."
Regev said that, from Israel's viewpoint, the message to Iran must be clear that "until it ceases its extremist and dangerous behavior in support for terrorism and its military nuclear program, its relationship with the international community will be difficult."
The International Atomic Energy Agency is slated to take up the Iranian nuclear question, and whether to kick the issue to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, at a crucial meeting on November 24.
AP contributed to this report.