Ban Tells Iran Leaders 'Concrete' Progress Needed on Nuclear Drive

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Iran's supreme leader and president on Wednesday that "concrete" progress is needed to end the showdown over their country's nuclear drive, a U.N. spokesman said.

Ban also had a tough message for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on human rights, their caustic comments on Israel and Iran's involvement in the Syrian civil war, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told U.N. correspondents from Tehran.

The U.N. leader "conveyed extremely clearly and in no uncertain terms" international expectations on the nuclear dispute and a range of other topics which have led to international efforts to isolate the Islamic state, Nesirky said.

Ban went to Tehran to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit in the face of opposition from Israel and the United States.

He called for "concrete steps to address the concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency and to prove to the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes."

The United States and its European allies accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear bomb and stonewalling efforts by the U.N. atomic agency to get firm information on the research which the Tehran government has insisted is peaceful.

Talks between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany have failed to start serious negotiations on ending the showdown.

In his separate meetings with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, Ban "regretted that little tangible progress has been achieved so far during those intensive talks" and added "that the talks needed to be serious and substantive."

Ban also condemned what Nesirky called "recent rhetoric we have heard from all kinds of quarters" about a possible Israeli or U.S. military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

But the U.N. leader took the Iranian leadership to task over their comments on Israel.

Khamenei this month called Israel a "cancerous tumor" while Ahmadinejad has repeatedly cast doubt on Israel's right to exist.

Ban "strongly objected to recent remarks from Iranian officials denying the Holocaust and Israel's right to exist. He said such offensive and inflammatory statements were unacceptable and should be condemned by all," Nesirky said.

The Syria conflict and human rights also took a prominent role in the talks.

The U.N. chief urged the president and supreme leader "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 genuine dialogue."

Iran has been accused of breaching U.N. sanctions by providing arms to President Bashar Assad's forces. The Tehran government has given backing to the mediation efforts of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and his replacement Lakhdar Brahimi. But it has said that Assad cannot be forced out of power.

Ban "called on all states to stop supplying arms to all sides in Syria," his spokesman said.

The U.N. leader reaffirmed his comments that Iran has "an important role" to play in any solution to the Syria conflict, which activists say has left about 24,000 dead.

Human rights in Iran "remains a source of concern," Ban told the country's top leaders. "He said fundamental civil and political rights should be respected," Nesirky said, amid mounting international criticism of Iran's use of capital punishment and action against political opponents and ethnic minorities.

Nesirky said that Ban had also met Saeed Jalili, former nuclear negotiator and top aide to the supreme leader and other top officials in the parliament and government.

"These have been very serious meetings and extremely detailed meetings," the spokesman commented.

Source: Agence France Presse

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