Iran Backtracks on Claim That U.N. Chief Won’t Attend Its Summit

By Patrick Goodenough | August 21, 2012 | 5:00 AM EDT

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN headquarters in New York on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

( – A day after Iran’s parliamentary speaker was quoted by the regime’s official press agency commenting on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s “withdrawal” from a major summit Tehran is hosting next week, a government spokesman insisted Monday that Ban will attend.

Ban himself has neither confirmed nor denied Iran’s claims that he will take part in the Aug. 26-31 summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a bloc of developing nations which Iran will chair for the next three years.

“We are not commenting on any of these media reports,” his spokesman, Martin Nesirky, told late Monday, echoing the stance Ban’s office has taken over the highly sensitive issue for the past fortnight.

Mohammad Reza Forqani, an Iranian foreign ministry official and spokesman for the NAM summit, told the semi-official Fars news agency Monday, “Contrary to the rumors which have been spread, the attendance of the U.N. secretary general in the Tehran summit is certain.”

“Contacts, requests, and pressure meant to dissuade Ban Ki-moon from attending the NAM summit in Tehran have not been effective, and the U.N. secretary general will certainly travel to Tehran,” he added.

Speaking to the regime’s official news agency, IRNA, Forqani expanded: “The United Nations has always been present throughout the past NAM meetings and besides its responsibilities and routine activities, in such meetings the U.N. secretary general usually supports the activities of the U.N. affiliated organs at regional and international scenes.

“The United Nations meanwhile supports the activities of the organizations that are active in international peace and security fields, and particularly those which are active in regional and international crisis solving,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier urged Ban in a phone conversation to stay away, and the Obama administration said his attendance would “not send a good signal,” given Tehran’s conduct, including its flouting of U.N. resolutions relating to its nuclear program. American taxpayers account for more than one-fifth of the U.N.’s operating budget.

Forqani’s comments Monday appeared to contradict an IRNA report a day earlier. It said parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani had spoken to reporters “in reaction to withdrawal of the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon from attending the upcoming NAM meeting.”

“The withdrawal of Ban Ki-moon from attending Tehran’s summit does not cause any problem for NAM meeting,” it quoted him as saying.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Monday again appeared to suggest that those planning to attend the Tehran gathering should reconsider.

“Iran is going to try to manipulate this NAM summit and the attendees to advance its own agenda, and to obscure the fact that it is failing to live up to multiple obligations that it has to the U.N. Security Council, the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], and other international bodies. So we, frankly, don’t think that Iran is deserving of these high-level presences that are going there,” she said.

“That said, these individual countries will make their own decisions at what level they choose to be represented,” Nuland added. “We would hope and expect that those who choose to go will take the opportunity of any meetings that they have with Iran’s leaders to press them” on Iran’s behavior.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow