UN chief criticises 'racist' attacks on Israel


TEHRAN – United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, in a speech to a summit of leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement yesterday, criticised “racist” attacks against Israel and said it was “utterly wrong” to deny the Jewish state’s right to exist.

“From this platform, as I have repeatedly stated around the world, I strongly reject threats by any member states to destroy another, or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust.”

Mr Ban told the summit, which Iran is hosting: “Claiming that another UN member state, Israel, does not have the right to exist, describing it in racist terms, is not only utterly wrong but undermines the principles we have all pledged to uphold.”

Israel had urged Mr Ban not to attend the summit with prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu saying that “over 120 countries are in Tehran, saluting a regime that not only denies the Holocaust but pledges to annihilate the Jewish people”.

US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on August 16th that Iran was “a strange place and an inappropriate place” for such an international meeting.

In his opening speech to the summit, which is being attended by 24 presidents, eight prime ministers, 50 foreign ministers and three kings, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that “torture and terror is condoned when carried out by US or Zionist regimes”.

Iran does not recognise the existence of Israel and Mr Khamenei, in a February 3rd sermon, called the Jewish state a “cancerous tumour” that must be cut out.

Mr Ban also urged the Iranian government to “take necessary measures to build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme”.

Mr Khamenei told heads of state that Iran had no interest in nuclear weapons but would keep pursuing peaceful nuclear energy.

“Our motto is nuclear energy for all and nuclear weapons for none,” Mr Khamenei told the delegates.

Separately, a UN report published yesterday said that Iran had doubled the number of uranium enrichment machines it had in an underground bunker.

The UN International Atomic Energy Agency said in its quarterly report on Iran that the number of centrifuges at Fordow, near the holy Shia Muslim city of Qom, about 130km (80 miles) from the capital Tehran, had more than doubled to 2,140 from 1,064 in May. The new machines were not yet operating, it said. – (Bloomberg, Reuters)