U.N. Chief Hails ‘Important’ Anti-Terror Conference Hosted by Iran

By Patrick Goodenough | June 28, 2011 | 4:52 AM EDT

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at U.N. headquarters in New York on September, 25, 2009. (UN Photo by Mark Garten)

(CNSNews.com) – U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman has confirmed that Ban sent a message of support to an Iranian government-hosted “counter-terrorism conference” in Tehran, where the U.S. and Israel were repeatedly vilified and 9/11 conspiracy theories were aired.

Asked about the event during a press briefing Monday, spokesman Farhan Haq did not distance Ban or the U.N. from the provocative sentiments expressed during the weekend gathering. Neither did he make any attempt to suggest that Ban’s involvement had been improperly portrayed by the conference organizers or Iranian media.

He confirmed that a message from Ban had been delivered at the conference on his behalf.

“The secretary-general believes that all nations, all peoples are affected by terrorism; and that it is imperative that we involved as many states, as many peoples as possible in the fight against terrorism,” Haq said.

The suggestion that Ban was simply throwing his weight behind the fight against terrorism got short shrift from U.N. Watch, a non-governmental organization that monitors the world body, which had earlier called for Ban to distance himself from the Tehran gathering.

“If the Chinese Communist Party will now organize an international conference for Internet freedom, and if Syria’s President Assad will hold one for the right to peaceful protest, will the U.N. also endorse those, on grounds that it is important for all nations to work together in promoting human rights?” U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer asked Monday.

Ban’s message reportedly was read to the gathering by Muhammad Rafiuddin Shah, a former first secretary at Pakistan’s mission to the U.N. who currently serves as acting head of a U.N. body called the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF).

Iranian media reports published during and since the conference underlined the U.N. involvement. The conference Web site also implied U.N. endorsement, featuring the U.N. logo among the organizing entities including the Iranian foreign ministry and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s office.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presides over the International Conference on the Global Fight Against Terrorism in Tehran on June 25-26. (Photo: Iranian presidency)

The U.N. association with the “International Conference on the Global Fight Against Terrorism” raised eyebrows for several reasons, not least of all the fact that Iran has for many years topped the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring states.

Ahmadinejad, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others used the event to rail at the U.S., Israel and Britain, and Ahmadinejad once again raised speculation that the 9/11 terror attack was a conspiracy designed to benefit U.S. and Israeli interests.

Also controversial was Ban’s association with an event whose main participants included Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the subject of an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland commented briefly about the conference at Monday’s departmental press briefing, although she did not refer to the U.N. involvement.

“We consider it quite ironic that Iran, the most active state sponsor of terrorism, is holding a meeting on terrorism,” she said. “Iran’s financial, material, and logistical support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia flies in the face of efforts to promote peace, threatens economic stability, and undermines the growth of democracy throughout the region.

“So instead of engaging constructively in the region with the international community, the Iranian government continues to engage unhelpfully and in an unfounded way,” Nuland said. “So, again, an ironic choice to have a terrorism meeting in Iran.”

U.N. Watch wrote to the U.S. and British ambassadors to the U.N. on Monday, asking them to demand that Ban dissociate himself from the Tehran conference.

“We trust that the United States will demand that the U.N. distance itself from this Orwellian propaganda exercise – an insult to victims worldwide of Iranian-sponsored terrorism – and that it refrain from similar acts in the future,” Neuer wrote to U.S. ambassador Susan Rice.

Attempts to get comment from the U.S. and British missions in New York were unsuccessful.

Last week Ban won a second term as secretary-general, receiving first the blessing of the U.S. and the other four permanent Security Council members and then the approval “by acclamation” – that is, no country objected or called for a roll-call vote – by the 192-member General Assembly.

Ban’s appeal to conference ignored

The U.N. later Monday evening released a copy of Ban’s statement to the conference.

In it, Ban stressed the need for all U.N. member states to take an “unambiguous” position on terrorism – to condemn it “in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes.”

Despite that appeal, the conference ended Sunday with a final statement that made clear resistance to “foreign occupation” should be excluded.

“It was emphasized that legitimate struggles of peoples under colonial rule or foreign occupation for their inalienable right of self-determination should not be labeled as terrorism,” it said.

Ban’s statement, in full, follows:

It is a pleasure to greet all the participants in this timely and important International Conference on the Global Fight against Terrorism.

Over the past several years, the scourge of terrorism has afflicted almost all regions of the world, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives. It is critical that the international community increase cooperation in countering this grave threat to international peace and security.

The Member States of the United Nations demonstrated their clear resolve against terrorism through the adoption, by consensus, of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2006 and its subsequent review resolutions in 2008 and 2010.

The Strategy is not only a political statement on the unacceptability of terrorism it is also a strategic policy framework for addressing all aspects of this menace. It is based on four pillars: measures to address conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism measures to prevent and combat terrorism capacity building measures and rule of law and human rights measures. And it emphasizes the need for a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach. While law enforcement, border control and so-called “hard” security measures are essential, we must also invest more attention and resources in socio-economic development, conflict-prevention, human rights and education. We also need to better understand the reasons people are drawn to violence, so that we can prevent others from following that path.

The Strategy also underscores the importance of dialogue, understanding, and principles and objectives of the United Nations Charter. Under the Charter all Member Sates have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State. Under the Charter all Member States have same rights and obligations. Denial of established historical facts will be gravely misleading. It is important that we look forward and put more emphasis on dialogue and understanding and on building bridges between countries and peoples. This is the best possible option to find lasting solutions of the difficult problems.

As custodians of the Strategy, Member States have the primary responsibility to ensure its implementation. That means putting in place cohesive national and regional counter-terrorism strategies, strengthening international coordination, marshaling the relevant expertise and demonstrating the necessary political will. The UN system, for its part, is fully engaged, including through the efforts of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force to provide good practices and recommendations.

In adopting the Strategy, Member States pledged “to consistently, unequivocally and strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes”. Let that unambiguous position be our guide as we seek to address a global challenge that seeks to do such harm to us all and while we pay tribute to victims of terrorism.

In the end, I thank you for your engagement, and please accept my best wishes for a productive meeting.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow