U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the dangers of incendiary rhetoric when two men met in New York on Sunday before this week’s annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, as Britain, France and Germany have officially called for new European Union sanctions against Iran.
“The secretary-general drew attention to the potentially harmful consequences of inflammatory rhetoric, counter-rhetoric and threats from various countries in the Middle East,” Ban’s press office said in a statement.
Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, dismissed Israel’s military threats as “making a lot of noise” in order to save itself and predicted that nothing will happen in the nuclear talks until after the U.S. presidential elections, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
“We, generally speaking, do not take very seriously the issue of the Zionists and the possible dangers emanating from them,” the Iranian President was quoted as saying in an interview by the Washington Post, conducted by writer and columnist David Ignatius, on the eve of his visit to New York.
“Of course, they would love to find a way for their own salvation by making a lot of noise and to raise stakes in order to save themselves. But I do not believe they will succeed,” said Ahmadinejad.
“Iran is also a very well recognized country and her defensive powers are very clear,” he said.
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was quoted as saying on Sunday that Iran could launch a pre-emptive strike on Israel if it was sure the Jewish state was preparing to attack it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted that Israel could strike Iran’s nuclear sites and criticized U.S. President Barack Obama’s position that sanctions and diplomacy should be given more time to stop Iran getting the atomic bomb.
Iran denies that it is seeking nuclear arms and says its atomic work is peaceful, aimed at generating electricity.
The U.N. statement said Ban told Ahmadinejad that Iran should “take the measures necessary to build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program.”
In discussing Iran’s negotiations with the world powers over its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the Washington Post that Iran was willing to make a deal to limit its stockpile of enriched uranium.
“We have always been ready and we are ready” to make a deal that will address the west’s concerns, he said.
However, he implied that the administration of President Obama attempted to slow the negotiations down until after the November election, to avoid bargaining concessions that might embarrass the president.
When asked about the ongoing Syrian crisis, Ahmadinejad said that Tehran was eager to help broker deals to end fighting in Syria. He said that he supported transitional elections for a new government in the war-torn country, which is a close ally to Iran.
Asked if President Bashar al-Assad should be a candidate, he answered this was for Syrians to decide.
During his Sunday meeting with Ban, Ahmadinejad also discussed Syria. Iran has been accused of using civilian aircraft to fly military personnel and large quantities of weapons across Iraqi airspace to Syria to aid President Bashar al-Assad in his attempt to crush an 18-month uprising against him, according to a Western intelligence report.
“The secretary-general stressed the grave regional implications of the worsening situation in Syria and underlined the devastating humanitarian impact,” the U.N. office statement said.
Ban said last week that Syria would be one of the main topics of the 193-nation General Assembly meeting. Other diplomats said the furor caused by an anti-Islam film made in California would also be a major issue.
Ahmadinejad has regularly attended at the assembly since he took office in 2005. He will give his U.N. speech on Wednesday and will also speak at a meeting on the “rule of law”on Monday.
In previous years, Ahmadinejad has used his U.N. speeches to defend Iran’s nuclear program and to attack Israel, the United States and Europe. He has questioned the Holocaust and cast doubt on whether 19 hijackers were really responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.
Western envoys predictably walk out of Ahmadinejad’s speeches in protest.
There will be high-level side meetings on Iran’s nuclear program and Syria during the General Assembly, but U.N. diplomats do not expect either issue to be resolved soon.
Calling for more sanctions
Meanwhile, Britain, France and Germany have officially called for new European Union sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, diplomats said Sunday.
The foreign ministers of the three countries wrote to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last week calling for tougher measures as the showdown with Tehran becomes more tense, a European diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The EU is working on more sanctions as President Ahmadinejad seeks to counter the pressure on his country at this week’s U.N. gathering in New York.
Details of the new EU measures are still being worked on but foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc will discuss the move at a meeting in Brussels on Oct. 15.
The United States and its European allies say that Iran is working toward a nuclear bomb. Iran says its research is for peaceful energy purposes. There has been mounting speculation in recent months that Israel is planning a military strike on Iran’s bunkered nuclear facilities.
The United States, Britain and France warned at the U.N. Security Council last week that time is running out for a negotiated solution with Iran.
“It is necessary that we sharpen the sanctions,” said a second western official, confirming the request by foreign ministers William Hague of Britain, Laurent Fabius of France and Westerwelle.
Ashton is to chair a meeting in New York on Thursday of the six nations -- the EU three, plus the United States, Russia and China -- who have been seeking to negotiate a solution with Iran.
The international community has pursued a dual track of pressure through sanctions while seeking to negotiate. But the U.S. and European nations say Iran is refusing to talk.