Iran leader assails UN, Israel at meet

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ensured an uncomfortable start for the Non-Aligned Movement's 16th summit Thursday by launching a scathing attack on the UN Security Council, calling it an "illogical, unjust and completely undemocratic structure and mechanism".

In a detailed address that underscored the contradictions bedevilling NAM, Khamenei described the UN Security Council as a "flagrant form of dictatorship" through which the West has been able to "protect its interests in the name of human rights" and "interfere militarily in other countries in the name of democracy".

He added that human life is considered "cheap in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and expensive in America and Western Europe".

While subsequent speakers, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, endorsed the need to transform UN institutions, Khamenei's speech did elicit a firm response from Ban.

"As the next chair of NAM, Iran should play a moderate and constructive role. Iran's nuclear programme remains a cause of concern and I urge the government to gain international confidence.This can be done by conforming to UN Security Council resolutions on the issue and cooperating with the IAEA," Ban said.

The secretary general's comments on the nuclear issue came despite Khamenei having stressed that Tehran's motto was "nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for none".

Iran's leader also used stinging language against the Israelis, whom he referred to as "bloodthirsty Zionists" and "ferocious Zionist wolves". Khamenei charged Israel with carrying out "assassinations, occupying Arab territories and organizing state terror in the region".

Ban was quick to counter this, asserting that arguments like "Israel does not have the right to exist is wrong and undermines the principles we have all agreed to respect".

He also cautioned against using "inflammatory language", which often tended to escalate into violence.

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