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UN chief to attend Iran summit

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend the summit of the Nonaligned Movement of mainly developing countries in Tehran next week despite strong opposition from Israel and Jewish groups outraged at Iran's calls for the destruction of Israel, the UN announced today.

Spokesman Martin Nesirky said Mr Ban will participate in the August 29-31 summit because he is determined to carry out his responsibilities to the 120-member organisation and to raise directly with Iran's leaders the threat to Israel's existence, which violates the UN Charter's requirement that member states refrain from threatening other states.

Mr Ban also plans to convey the international community's expectations that Iran make urgent progress on issues including the country's controversial nuclear programme, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria, Mr Nesirky said.

He said Mr Ban is "fully aware of the sensitivities" of the visit, but not going "would be a missed opportunity."

The Nonaligned Movement was founded in Belgrade in 1961 at the height of the Cold War by countries that considered themselves independent of the main power blocs at the time led by the Soviet Union and the United States. It has grown over the past 50 years and Iran was elected as NAM's current chair, replacing Egypt.

Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had called Mr Ban and warned him that travelling to Iran "would be a horrible mistake".

"To grant legitimacy, however unintentional, to a regime that openly calls for the elimination of another UN member state will stain you and the organisation you lead," Mr Netanyahu said.

Jewish organisations, including the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, B'Nai B'rith International, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, also urged Mr Ban not to go.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week that Mr Ban's participation in the Tehran summit would "not send a good signal". After the announcement that he would go, she called on the secretary-general to put his visit to good use and "say directly to Iran's leaders what the international community's concerns are".

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