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UN Chief to Tehran: Use Your Influence Positively in Syria

In this photo released by an official website of the Iranian supreme leader's office, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, left, meets with Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Tehran, Iran, August 29, 2012.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Secretary-General delivered strong messages to Iran’s leadership on Wednesday, urging the Islamic Republic to use its influence constructively in the Syrian crisis. Ban Ki-moon also told Iran’s leaders they must take concrete steps to prove to the world that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The U.N. chief is in Tehran for a summit of the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement. His spokesman said the secretary-general would use the conference to speak to Iran’s top leaders on a variety of subjects, including the Syrian crisis, Iran’s nuclear program and its human rights record.

In a telephone briefing with reporters from Tehran, U.N. Spokesman Martin Nesirky said Ban met separately on Wednesday with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and the head of the Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili.

Nesirky said Ban urged Iran’s leaders to use their government’s considerable influence to help stop the violence in Syria and create the conditions for a political process to begin.

“The secretary-general urged the president and the Supreme Leader, in those separate meetings, to use Iran’s influence to impress upon the Syrian leadership the urgent need for the violence to stop and to create the conditions for a credible dialogue and a genuine political process that meets the will of the Syrian people," said Nesirky. "And the secretary-general reiterated his opposition to the further militarization of conflict, and he called on all states to stop supplying arms to all sides in Syria.”

Iran has staunchly backed Syria's President Bashar al-Assad throughout the 18-month long uprising and has accused the West and Sunni Muslim Persian Gulf countries of fueling the conflict by arming and financing the rebels.

Iran’s official news agency quoted the deputy foreign minister as saying Iran would propose a cease-fire and national reconciliation talks over a three-month period during the Non-Aligned Movement summit.

Turkey is calling for so-called “safe zones” inside Syria as it comes close to reaching its announced limit of 100,000 refugees in Turkish camps. The U.N. Security Council is to hold a high-level meeting on Thursday on the humanitarian situation in Syria. The foreign ministers of Turkey and Jordan, two of the countries hosting a large portion of Syria’s 200,000 refugees, will address the 15-nation council on the humanitarian crisis they are facing.

U.N. Spokesman Nesirky said Ban Ki-moon also addressed Iran’s controversial nuclear program with Iranian leaders, saying he had regretted there had been so little tangible progress during intensive talks with major world powers and Iran, adding that the talks needed to be “serious and substantive.”

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. He said there was no alternative to a peaceful, diplomatic and negotiated settlement, which should be reached step-by-step and based on reciprocity.

The U.N. chief also raised the situation of human rights in Iran as well as controversial comments from Iranian officials about Israel’s right to exist and denying the Nazi Holocaust.

The Non-Aligned Movement summit will conclude on Friday.