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UN Chief Slams Iran On Rights, Israel Comments, Nukes


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) meets with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Tehran on August 29.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Tehran on August 29 to attend the summit of nations from the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) and wasted no time making good on pledges to press Iran on key issues causing regional and world tensions.

Sitting next to Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani at a news conference, Ban said he discussed how the UN "can work together with Iran to improve the human rights situation in Iran."

Iranian opposition groups had encouraged Ban to use his first visit to Tehran to bring up the issue of human rights in the Islamic republic, including the house arrests of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi.

Ban also met with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"On human rights, the secretary-general in his meeting with [Ahmadinejad] said that the human rights situation in Iran remains a source of concern," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky. "He said fundamental civil and political rights should be respected."

Nesirky said Ban also told both Iranian leaders that their recent anti-Israeli comments were "offensive and inflammatory."

"He also mentioned in his meeting with [Ahmadinejad] and separately with [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] that he strongly objected to recent remarks from Iranian officials denying the Holocaust and Israel's right to exist," he said.

Ban also raised the issue of Iran's nuclear development program that has greatly raised tensions in the Middle East region and has been high on the agenda of the UN Security Council for several years.

Nesirky said Ban told Khamenei and Ahmadinejad that "concrete" progress is needed to end the showdown over the country's nuclear program.

"On the nuclear question, the secretary-general said he'd been following closely Iran's talks with the P5+1. He said he regretted that little tangible progress has been achieved so far during those intensive talks, and that the talks needed to be serious and substantive," Nesirky said.

According to Nesirky, Ban "conveyed extremely clearly and in no uncertain terms" the international community's expectations for an end to controversy and saber-rattling surrounding Tehran's nuclear aspirations.

Tehran claims the nuclear program aims at developing nuclear power for civilian use, but many countries suspect it is a cover for a nuclear weapons program.

In Israel, there has been increasing talk of a preemptive strike on Iran to prevent the Islamic republic from having a nuclear weapons capability.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and dpa
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