* Iran, Israel have been threatening each recently
* Ban, Ahmadinejad also discussed Syria crisis
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 23 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.
"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.
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
The two men 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
"The secretary-general stressed the grave regional
implications of the worsening situation in Syria and underlined
the devastating humanitarian impact," the statement said.
Speaking to reporters in New York, German Foreign Minister
Guido Westerwelle said that "to increase pressure and to
increase the isolation of the regime of Assad is one of the
goals this week."
On Wednesday, Westerwelle will chair a ministerial meeting
of the U.N. Security Council on the Arab Spring at which Syria
is expected to be a major theme.
PRESSURE ON SYRIA
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.
The U.N.-Arab League mediator in the Syria crisis, Lakhdar
Brahimi, will address the Security Council on Monday in a
private meeting. Brahimi met with Ban on Saturday to discuss the
his recent trip to Damascus, where Brahimi met with Assad.
"(Ban and Brahimi) focused on how to address the appalling
levels of violence in Syria and how to progress towards an
inclusive political solution that will address the legitimate
demands of the Syrian people," the U.N. press office said.
"The worsening crisis in Syria represents a steadily
increasing threat to regional peace and security."
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.