U.N. Chief Ban Warns Iran to Prove Nuclear Program is Peaceful

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Following through on promises he made last week, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon used a meeting of non-aligned nations as an opportunity to put pressure on Iran about its nuclear program and also to ask other countries to stop supplying arms in the Syria conflict.

Ban met with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and told them they needed to prove that their country’s nuclear program is peaceful. The question of whether Ahmadinejad is trying to develop nuclear weapons has been of great concern to Western nations and particularly to Israel, which is convinced that Iran’s weapons would be used against the nearby enemy. But Ahmadinejad has said on numerous occasions that any efforts to develop a nuclear program were about energy, not war.

Ban also told Ahmadinejad and Khamenei that he considered their latest verbal attacks on Israel to be offensive, inflammatory and unacceptable. He was referring to statements made earlier this month by Ahmadinejad that there was no place for the Jewish state in a future Middle East and by Khamenei that Israel would one day be returned to the Palestinian nation and would cease to exist.

Ban arrived in Tehran on Wednesday for a three-day visit to attend a summit of the 120 non-aligned nations—in defiance of a request by the U.S. and Israel that he boycott the meeting. “Non-aligned” refers to the nations who consider themselves independent of an alliance with any super powers. Currently led by the president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, the members of the non-aligned movement tend to be non-white countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Middle East.

Their last summit was three years ago in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

“On the nuclear question … he said that he regretted that little tangible progress has been achieved so far,” said Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky, speaking to New York reporters by telephone from Tehran.

“He said that Iran needed to take concrete steps to address the concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency and prove to the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes,” Nesirky said.

Iran has received four rounds of sanctions from the U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to put a stop to its nuclear enrichment program.

As for Syria, Ban called on all states at the summit to stop supplying arms to the conflict in Syria, Nesirky said.

Ban urged Iran’s leaders to use their influence to call on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to end the violence and create conditions for “credible dialogue and a genuine political process that meets the will of the Syrian people.”

“The secretary-general reiterated his opposition to the further militarization of the conflict and called on all states to stop supplying arms to all sides in Syria,” Nesirky said.

by Iran’s leaders on Israel.

Earlier this month Ahmadinejad said there was no place for the Jewish state in a future Middle East and Khamenei said Israel would one day be returned to the Palestinian nation and would cease to exist.

“He said such offensive and inflammatory statements were unacceptable and should be condemned by all,” Nesirky said.

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