Ban to attend Tehran summit despite US objections

New York: Moves by the US and Israel to isolate Iran suffered a set-back when UN chief Ban Ki-moon announced that he would join representatives from 120 nations in Tehran next week at a summit of Non-Aligned countries.

Ban`s decision to attend the meeting, announced by his spokesman Martin Nesirky yesterday, came despite strong objections raised by American and Israelis including a phone call to UN chief by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israelis have warned that the Iranian leaders will exploit the conference to create an impression of legitimacy for their policies. The US has also given a call to nations to stay away from the event scheduled for later this month.

Among top level delegations who will be attending the summit are Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, new Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi and Cuban leader Raul Castro.

The meeting would also be attended by North Korea`s nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam.

The UN Secretary-General`s decision to go to Tehran comes at a time when tensions are mounting in the Persian Gulf, with Iran defying Security Council resolutions to halt its uranium enrichment and Tehran`s strong backing for the Assad regime in Syria.

Ban will "convey the clear concerns and expectations of the international community" on Iran`s nuclear programme, terrorism, human rights and the Syria war, Nesirky said.

Nesirky said that the UN leader would "discuss frankly" the Syrian crisis but believed that Iran must be part of the solution, and that he would raise the other topics.

"By going he is making the extent of international concern all that much clearer," Nesirky told reporters.