Will Annan Raise Destruction of Israel With Iran?

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan plans to visit Tehran during a Mideast trip next week, but his spokesman could not say Wednesday whether he would bring up President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial and calls for Israel's destruction.

Annan is likely to include Iran and Syria in an itinerary that includes visits to Lebanon, Israel, Turkey and various Arab states, spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced.

He said the trip's main focus would be to encourage compliance with Security Council resolution 1701, adopted on Aug. 11 to end the month-long Israel-Hizballah conflict.

Last October, Ahmadinejad for the first time publicly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map. Amid international criticism, Annan called off his first scheduled visit to Iran since Ahmadinejad took office in June 2005.

Dujarric said at the time the secretary-general and Tehran had "mutually agreed that this is not appropriate for him to travel to Iran."

Ahmadinejad has on several occasions since then repeated the sentiments about eradicating another U.N. member state.

Asked Wednesday whether Annan would specifically take up the issue with his Iranian hosts, Dujarric said he did not want to "prejudge" what would be discussed.

"He has made his position clear to Iranian officials in the past ... the secretary-general's position is unambiguous on this matter."

Dujarric was also asked whether Annan would express his views on Iran's denial of the Holocaust.

As with the question on Israel, the spokesman said he did not want to "prejudge" what Annan might bring up in Tehran, adding that the secretary-general had brought up the Holocaust issue with Iranian officials "in the past."

Last week, an international exhibition of cartoons on the Holocaust opened in Tehran, ostensibly a "response" to the controversial publication in some European newspapers late last year and early this year of caricatures of Mohammed.

Ahmadinejad has dismissed the Nazis' systematic killing of two-thirds of European Jewry during World War II as a "myth" that was used as justification for the establishment of the state of Israel.

Annan has not issued any statement on Iran's Holocaust cartoon contest. A reporter at Wednesday's briefing in New York pointed out that he had, by contrast, commented publicly in the case of the Mohammed caricatures.

Dujarric said Annan "has been very clear, and on record, to say that anyone who would try to deny the truth of the Holocaust, or make false claims concerning the Holocaust, are bigots."

While he did not want to "prejudge" what Annan might say on Israel or the Holocaust, the U.N. spokesman was not equally reticent when asked whether the Israeli blockade of Lebanon - intended to keep out weapons bound for Hizballah - would be discussed.

"That is an issue, obviously, that will be raised by the secretary-general," he said.

Dujarric sidestepped questions on whether the U.S. government had expressed any opposition to Annan's plans to visit Iran or Syria.

"The secretary-general, in setting his trip, has the mandate of the Security Council," he replied, and when asked subsequently whether Annan had spoken with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the trip to Iran, said "the visit should be of no surprise to the members of the Security Council."

Both Iran and Syria are currently at odds with the U.N.

Iran is one week away from a Security Council deadline to stop enriching uranium or face the possibility of U.N. sanctions.

The Syrian regime is suspected, by an investigation mandated by a Security Council resolution, of involvement in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

See Also:
Annan, UN Under Fire for Stance on Israel (Aug. 11, 2006)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow