Security Council refuses to condemn Ahmadinejad’s remarks

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN Security Council refused to approve a statement Friday that would condemn remarks about Israel’s impending destruction attributed to Iran’s president because of objections from Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, council diplomats said.Qatar, the only Arab nation on the council, said it had no instructions, which also meant approval on Friday was impossible, the diplomats said. The statement must be approved by all 15 council members.

France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, who called for condemnation of the remarks attributed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said it was unfortunate that the council could not act immediately. But he said he would try again on Monday to get all 15 council members to approve the statement.

“At stake is … a real question of principle. When the president of a country talks about the destruction of another country, a member of the United Nations, this is a serious issue,” de La Sabliere said.

“His remark is very similar to the one he made in 2005 and the Security Council reacted in 2005,” the French ambassador said. “I am confident that the council will react this time again.” In October 2005, the Iranian president caused outrage in the West when he said in a speech that Israel’s “Zionist regime should be wiped off the map”. The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Sunday that Ahmadinejad referred twice to Israel’s destruction.

IRNA quoted the president as saying that in last summer’s war between Israel and Hizbollah “the Lebanese nation pushed the button to begin counting the days until the destruction of the Zionist regime”. It also quoted him as saying “God willing, in the near future we will witness the destruction of the corrupt occupier regime”. According to council diplomats, Indonesia accused the Security Council of double standards in defending Israel and doing nothing when Palestinians are attacked. Indonesia also said Ahmadinejad had not really threatened Israel, and that the council had done nothing when Israeli ministers threatened Iran and when the newspaper Haaretz called for Ahmadinejad’s assassination, the diplomats said.

France, Britain and the United States stressed that there was a difference between comments in a newspaper and comments by a head of state, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations were private.

“A statement by a head of state calling for or implying the destruction of a member state of the United Nations is as a matter of principle unacceptable, and this is a threat to international peace and security,” US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters after the closed meeting.

“Criticising that statement [attributed to Ahmadinejad] does not mean that one should not be critical of policies or activities or actions of Israel, but it’s different than calling for the destruction of Israel by a head of state,” he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday expressed shock and dismay at the report and reminded Iran that under the UN Charter “all members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”, UN deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said in a statement.

The brief press statement proposed by France would have the council “strongly condemn remarks about the destruction of Israel” attributed to Ahmadinejad and reaffirm Israel’s rights and obligations as a longstanding UN member. It would also “reaffirm that under the United Nations Charter, all members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.

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