Also attending the two-day event this past weekend in Tehran were leaders of three of the top six recipients of U.S. aid in fiscal year 2010 – Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
According to Iranian state media and the “International Conference on the Global Fight Against Terrorism” Web site, a message from Ban was read out at the event, expressing the hope that the conference would “attain great goals.”
Multiple Iranian media reports on the conference highlighted the participation of the United Nations. The event’s Web site carries the U.N. logo alongside those of six other organizing entities – such as the conference secretariat and offices of Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – further implying U.N. involvement and endorsement.
Phones at the U.N. press office went unanswered on Sunday evening.
Less than a week ago, Ban won a second five-year at the helm of the world body, with the full support of the Obama administration.
In its response to that development, Iran stated, “We expect that Ban Ki-moon, during his second term, will try to make up for the shortcomings of his first term and deal with all countries based on justice.”
The conference in Tehran reportedly was attended by senior officials from some 60 countries and representatives of “international organizations including the U.N.”
Apart from Zardari, Karzai and Talabani, other participating leaders included Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir – who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes in Darfur – and the presidents of Tajikistan and Mauritania.
Addressing the conference on Saturday, Ahmadinejad revisited the sentiments he expressed at the U.N. General Assembly last September, stating that “the real truth [about the 9/11 terror attacks] has been kept from the Americans and the world.”
“Some believe that the motive behind the September 11 attacks was to ensure the safety of Zionist regime, foment insecurity in regional countries, divert the U.S. public opinion from the chaotic economic situation in the country and fill the pockets of uncivilized belligerent capitalists,” he told the Tehran gathering.
American and Israeli responsibility for terrorism were themes running through many of the speeches delivered at the conference, from the opening address by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the closing speech by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
Khamenei accused Israel of “shamelessly and openly” carrying out terrorist acts and the U.S. of “a long list of terrorist behaviors by financing and arming terrorist organizations in the region.”
Salehi linked terrorism to “foreign invasion, occupation, and meddling in internal affairs” by outside countries.
A statement released at the conclusion of the event condemned “all acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state terrorism.”
“It was underlined that state terrorism has posed, for long, a real threat to the peace and stability of many nations across the globe through unlawful use or threat of force, aggression and occupation.”
The statement also called for a distinction to be made between terrorism and the legitimate right to fight occupation – echoing the long-held view by Islamic states that any definition of terrorism should exclude “resistance” against occupation. That stance, usually cited in the context of the Palestinian and Kashmir conflicts, has for well over a decade stymied efforts by the U.N. to agree upon a definition of terrorism.
‘Height of cynicism’
On Saturday, a non-governmental organization that monitors the U.N. wrote to Ban, urging him to distance himself from the Tehran conference.
U.N. Watch highlighted some of the anti-U.S. and anti-Israel sentiments pervading the event, both in speeches and “inflammatory” conference media, such as the publication of cartoons accusing the U.S. of terrorism.
In one of sketches, from smoke billowing from the burning Twin Towers missiles and bombs fall on men holding Iraqi and Afghan flags. Another shows a dove with an olive branch, trapped in a cage made up of the American flag.
In the letter to Ban, U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer deplored the U.N.’s association with the event.
“As you know, this conference is the height of cynicism,” he wrote. “Iran is a leading sponsor of terrorism, arming and training terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Iran has been accused of sponsoring terrorist attacks in Iraq, and of now aiding the Syrian regime in the bloody repression of its own population.”
Neuer said Ban’s “good name and that of the United Nations should not be exploited in this way.”
“It harms the credibility of the world body, contradicts the principles of the U.N. Charter, and aids and abets the sponsors of terrorism in their global propaganda. We urge you to publicly distance yourself and the UN from this shameful conference.”
Neuer said early Monday U.N. Watch had received no reply from the U.N. but planned to follow up. “Iran’s propaganda machine has made significant use of the U.N. endorsement,” he said. “It’s outrageous.”
‘Hegemonic powers, plots’
On the sidelines of the gathering, Ahmadinejad held meetings with some of the leading participants, including three-way talks with the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The trio pledged to expand security, political and economic ties.
In his meeting with Zardari, the Iranian president complained that “hegemonic powers” were trying to impede the progress of countries in the region by sowing discord among them.
Ahmadinejad and Sudan’s Bashir discussed the “threat of state terrorism posed by Washington and Tel Aviv,” according to IRNA.
Khamenei also held meetings with some of the visiting presidents.
He told Sudan’s Bashir that the U.S. was deeply concerned about the “Islamic awakening” in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, which he said was undermining the interests of the West and Israel.
He also praised the Sudanese regime for standing firm against U.S., Western and Israeli pressure, presumably a reference to the ICC indictment.
Khamenei told Iraq’s Talabani that the U.S. has lost its influence in the Middle East and that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq was the root cause of the country’s problems.
Meeting with Zardari, the supreme leader praised Pakistanis for foiling U.S. “ plots” and called for deeper ties between Tehran and Islamabad.