United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon meets the Supreme Leader today
2100 GMT: Summit Watch. And here's a twist in today's diplomacy --- while direct talks between US and Iranian delegations only resumed in 2009, 30 years after the Islamic Revolutionary, a senior American official was in the room with the Supreme Leader today.
Jeffrey Feltman (pictured second from left) was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs until he became the UN Under Secretary for Political Affairs this spring.
2040 GMT: Summit Watch. Looks like the meeting between United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the Supreme Leader was quite feisty for a diplomatic encounter....
Ayatollah Khamenei replied to Ban's concerns on the nuclear issues (see 2015 GMT) with the challenge that the United Nations is "defective", given the "dominance" of the US and its allies in the Security Council.
The Supreme Leader also spoke at length on Syria and "the victimisation of the innocent people of this country", criticising "a flood of weapons" to "irresponsible groups" and the opposition for a "proxy war".
Ayatollah Khamenei's website did not present his responses to Ban's comments on human rights issues and "offensive and inflammatory statements" on Israel.
2015 GMT: Summit Watch. The spokesman for Ban Ki-moon has given a summary of the United Nations Secretary General's meetings with President and Supreme Leader.
Accordng to Martin Nesirsky, Ban raised the nuclear issue, saying "he regretted that little tangible progress has been achieved so far. Iran needed to take concrete steps to address the concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency and prove to the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes."
Addressing Syria, Ban urged the Iranian leaders to use their influence to call on President to end the violence and create conditions for "credible dialogue and a genuine political process that meets the will of the Syrian people. The secretary-general reiterated his opposition to the further militarization of the conflict and called on all states to stop supplying arms to all sides."
Ban also raised human rights questions and said, regarding Israel, that he considered "offensive and inflammatory statements [as] unacceptable and should be condemned by all".
The only way to make these high prices acceptable for the Iranian people is your effort to question the unresponsive officials of the Islamic Republic....Iranians have the right to expect you to truthfully reflect the image of Tehran and the economic pressure on Iranians. They expect you to force Iranian officials to respond to questions on hundreds of domestic and international issues that they have not responded to in the past. If you do so, the Iranian people will welcome your presence as the dearest of guests.
1638 GMT: Summit Watch. As promised (see 0710 GMT), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has brought up human rights in talks with Iranian officials, who do not appear to be amused in this addition to their script for the Non-Aligned Movement's summit:
"We have discussed how United Nations can work together with Iran to improve the human rights situation in Iran. We have our serious concerns on the human rights abuses and violations in this country," he told a news conference as he sat next to Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, who frowned at the remarks.
We await an account of Ban's encounter with the Supreme Leader.
1630 GMT: Economy Watch. Adel Azar, the head of the Statistics Center, has said that inflation data was forwarded to officials secretly because the numbers differ from those of the Central Bank.
1510 GMT: Summit Watch. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with President Ahmadinejad today:
The group started work 10 August on implementation of agreements with Iran and monitoring of activities as mandated by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The IAEA and Iranian officials failed last Friday to reach agreement on outstanding issues over inspection and supervision.
After players complained that they could not log on, the company responded, "United States trade restrictions and economic sanction laws prohibit Blizzard from doing business with residents of certain nations, including Iran. Blizzard tightened up its procedures to ensure compliance with these laws, and players connecting from the affected nations are restricted from access to Blizzard games and services."
Blizzard also said Iranian players would not be getting refunds.
1020 GMT: Summit Watch. One aspect of the Non-Aligned Summit which the Iranian media has not been mentioning has been the conflict over the attendance of a Palestinian delegation --- the faction led by Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, said it would not participate if an invitation was issued to Hamas, which is in control of Gaza. In the end, Hamas was shut out as Abbas' group, which supervises the West Bank, came to Tehran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi had to handle the issue in an interview with Al Monitor:
Al-Monitor: We heard that [Palestinian Authority leader] Mahmoud Abbas is coming; was there also an invitation to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh?
Salehi: Well, the Palestinian issue is such a great issue of interest to everybody that no matter how many representatives come from Palestine, still there is room to represent such a great country. They are all welcome ... Our invitation is based on the rules and procedures of the NAM so from this perspective, an invitation was delivered to Mr. Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]. But we would have wished that as many Palestinian officials and heads of governments, states could have attended this meeting.
Al-Monitor: So an invitation to Haniyeh was not issued?
Salehi: Let’s put it the other way around. An invitation was issued to Mr. Abbas. Look at the half-full glass, not half empty.
0710 GMT: Summit Watch. As Iranian officials and media look to the visit of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to the Non-Aligned Summit as a boost for their claims of international standing, and as opposition groups hope the Secretary General will highlight the cases of political prisoners, Ban's spokesman has put out this balancing comment:
The spokesman said Mr. Ban would “convey the clear concerns and expectations of the international community on the issues for which cooperation and progress are urgent for both regional stability and the welfare of the Iranian people.”
“These include Iran’s nuclear program, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria,” the spokesman said.
Asked to comment on a petition urging Mr. Ban to bring up Iran’s rights record, which was signed by 400 Iranian activists, the spokesman said: “It’s clear that when he goes there, he will reiterate his concern that the overall human rights situation in Iran remains critical. Iran has an obligation under international law to protect freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression and allow greater space for media activists, human rights defenders and political activists.”
0640 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Despite the admission by the Iranian Foreign Minister that the Islamic Republic will not get a boost to its Syrian strategy through the Non-Aligned Summit (see 0620 GMT), Press TV keeps beating the drum:
Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa says it is a 'clear mistake' to exclude Iran from international efforts to end the crisis in Syria.
“Some countries' refusal to engage with Iran on efforts to settle Syria's crisis on the pretext that Iran is part of the problem is a clear political mistake,”
0620 GMT: Ignored by Iranian State media's wall-to-wall cheerleading for the Non-Aligned Summit in Tehran, and buried in an article by one of the few US correspondents at the gathering, is this significant revelation from Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi:
Other than a few bland paragraphs in the confrence resolution calling for peace in Iran’s ally, the conflict won’t be addressed by the Non-Aligned Movement, he said. “There may be some sideline talks with like-minded countries and with countries that would wish to take some part in expediting the peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis, avoiding any external interference in the internal affairs of Syria,” he said. “Let the case be resolved through Syrian-Syrian dialogue.”
With those sentences, Salehi effectively admitted that, for all the Islamic Republic's assertion of "leadership" this week, it will not be able to use the Summit to seize the initiative over the Syrian crisis. Instead, the Islamic Republic is just hoping to get a place at the diplomatic table.
That strategy gives the visit of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi --- already hailed by Iran as testimony to its international prominence and the success of its regional strategy --- even more importance. Morsi went to the front on Syria last week, proposing a new diplomatic approach that included Tehran, and Turkey gave the initiative substance by putting it forward this weekend.
I suspect Tehran will be disappointed if it expects Morsi to headline the move while he is at the Summit --- the President, if he stays beyond the few hours predicted by Egyptian media, is more likely to speak in general platitudes. If I am wrong, however, Iran will finally have gotten something beyond short-term promotion from this week's summit.