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UN chief discusses nuclear issue, Syria, human rights with Iran

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 30 — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Wednesday held talks with Iranian leaders on such issues as nuclear standoff, Syria and human rights ahead of a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Iran's capital Tehran, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters here.

Nesirky, who is currently with the secretary-general in Tehran to attend the NAM summit, made the statement to reporters here as he was speaking via a phone connection from Iran.

"The secretary-general arrived in the Islamic Republic of Iran earlier today, he just finished a series of meetings with Iranian officials, including the supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," the spokesman said.

Nesirky said that the secretary-general also had a separate meeting with Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani.

"The secretary-general had an extensive encounter with President Ahmadinejad, and that was followed by his meeting with the supreme leader," the spokesman said.

"In all these meetings, the secretary-general has conveyed the clear concerns and expectations of the international community on the issues for which cooperation and progress are urgent for both regional stability and the welfare of the Iranian people," he said, adding these issues included Iran's nuclear program, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria.

Ban announced a week ago his decision to attend the NAM summit, slated for Aug. 30-31 in Tehran, despite strong opposition from the United States and its close ally Israel.

Both the American and the Israeli regimes had urged the UN secretary-general to refrain from attending the NAM summit and had even termed Ban's possible trip to Tehran a "big mistake."

More than 100 members of the NAM have indicated their willingness to take part in the upcoming NAM summit.

"On the nuclear question, the SG (secretary-general) said he has been following closely with Iran's talks with the P5+1," Nesirky said. "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."

Ban also told the Iranian leaders that Iran needed to take concrete steps to address the concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and prove to the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

"He said there is no alternative, just diplomatic and negotiated settlement step by step based on reciprocity," Nesirky said. "Let me say the SG has made the same point on the nuclear question to the supreme leader."

The United States and its Western allies have long accused Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5), Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany have held many rounds of negotiations with Iran on the issue, with no substantial progress achieved so far.

The Vienna-based IAEA has announced the establishment of an Iran Task Force, a separate team of nuclear experts, to inspect and investigate Iran's nuclear program, reports said on Wednesday.

"On Syria, the secretary-general urged the president and the supreme leader in their separate meetings to use Iran's influence to press on the Syrian leadership to urgently stop the violence and create a condition for a credible dialogue … to meet the aspirations of the Syrian people," the spokesman said.

On the human rights, the secretary-general told the Iranian leaders that "the situation of human rights in Iran remains a source of concern."

Talking to reporters at a joint press conference with the Iranian parliament speaker in Tehran, the secretary-general said that Iran can play an important role in the peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis, which broke out in March last year. Ban also hoped to see an Iranian role in the political settlement to the 18- month Syrian crisis, but his intention was blocked by Washington and its allies.

"We have discussed how (the) United Nations can work together with Iran to improve the human rights situation in Iran," Ban said at the joint press conference in Tehran. "We have our serious concerns on the human rights abuses and violations in this country." (PNA/Xinhua)


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