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UN Watch in the News

Group calls on UN to distance itself from controversial Iran conference
Steven Edwards
Postmedia News story carried in National Post, The Leader-Post, and the Ottowa Citizen
June 27, 2011

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations on Monday defended encouraging an ``anti-terrorism'' conference in Iran on the weekend - despite the near exclusive anti-West tone of the international get-together.

Iranian media on Monday trumpeted that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had ``appreciated'' Iran's effort, saying he sent a message through an envoy that said ``holding conferences like the Tehran Conference can be considerably helpful in implementing'' UN resolutions aimed at combating terrorism.

Statements emerging from the International Conference of the Global Fight Against Terrorism accused the United States, Britain and Israel of fomenting terrorism.

``If we're reaching out and trying to make sure that people fight terrorism, we need to go as far as possible to make sure that everyone does it,'' said Farhan Haq, a spokesman for the secretary general. ``We don't have to agree with all the statements.''

He denied that Ban had explicitly endorsed the conference's outcomes.

U.S. and other Western intelligence services have long said Iran is a state sponsor of Hamas and Hezbollah, which the United States, Canada and others consider to be terrorist entities.

Citing the ``wicked policy'' of the United States and Britain, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei opened the conference with an apparent call for terror attacks on those countries as he claimed in a statement that it was ``a duty for all Muslims to confront and fight this inauspicious offspring.''

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that Washington manufactured both the Holocaust and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as pretexts to put down Muslims, and also to benefit economically from the resulting panic.

The conference's website featured cartoons showing images that included a bloody fingerprint depicted as a U.S. flag, and the Statue of Liberty holding a stick of dynamite.

The Canadian-led monitoring group UN Watch on Monday led calls for the UN to officially wash its hands of the Iranian conference.

``If the Chinese Communist Party will now organize an international conference for Internet freedom, and if Syria's President Assad will hold one for the right to peaceful protest, will the UN also endorse those, on grounds that it is important for all nations to work together in promoting human rights?'' asked Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based organization, in reference to China's reported Internet censorship and Syria's crackdown on dissidents.

UN Watch said in a statement it had sent letters to the UN missions of the United States and Britain calling on them to ``intervene.''

The letters said both countries should ``demand that the UN distance itself from the (Iranian) Orwellian propaganda exercise - an insult to victims worldwide of Iranian-sponsored terrorism - and that it refrain from similar acts in the future.''

The UN said it intended Monday to release the ``as delivered'' text of the secretary general's remarks, which Iran said had been read on his behalf in Tehran by his envoy Mohammad Rafi al Din Shah.

Haq highlighted that the UN General Assembly, where all 192 member states sit, is frequently a platform for what many Western countries would consider outlandish statements.

``Does that mean that the General Assembly should be abolished because people say things that are (deemed) wrong there?'' Haq said.

Among leaders attending the conference were Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Their countries are among the top six recipients of U.S. aid, while Canadian troops continue to serve in Afghanistan.

The semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency also quoted, among others, a Canadian-based organization as it reported that participants believed the gathering was an ``excellent initiative.''

``Terrorism is a problem of the Western states as well,'' said Zeljko Milicevic, of Canadian-based Justice for Bosnia Task Force, according to FNA. ``It is important to define terrorism, and when it is defined, we can look for its solutions through co-operation within the international community.''

Milicevic last year announced he was launching a lawsuit against a series of Canadian leaders, saying Canadian peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina had failed to prevent genocide of Bosnian Muslims there in the 1990s.