Bibi to Ban: ‘Mr. Secretary General your place is not in Tehran’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that his plan to travel to Tehran later this month is "a major mistake even if it is being made with good intentions," according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office. The U.N. has not announced that Ban is planning to travel to Iran, but ...

By , a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that his plan to travel to Tehran later this month is "a major mistake even if it is being made with good intentions," according to a statement from Netanyahu's office.

The U.N. has not announced that Ban is planning to travel to Iran, but U.N.-based diplomats say privately that he will attend a high-level meeting of the non-aligned movement in Tehran later this month.

It will be Ban's first trip to Tehran since becoming secretary general in 2007.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that his plan to travel to Tehran later this month is "a major mistake even if it is being made with good intentions," according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

The U.N. has not announced that Ban is planning to travel to Iran, but U.N.-based diplomats say privately that he will attend a high-level meeting of the non-aligned movement in Tehran later this month.

It will be Ban’s first trip to Tehran since becoming secretary general in 2007.

While there, Ban is expected to hold meetings with the Iranian leader on a range of issues, including Iran’s nuclear program and its role in Syria.

"During your tenure as U.N. Secretary General, you have acted fairly," Netanyahu told Ban, according to the statement. "This is why I was so disappointed to hear about your intention to attend the non-aligned summit that will be held in Tehran at the end of the month…. Mr. Secretary General your place is not in Tehran"

A spokesman for Ban, Farhan Haq, said "there is no trip to announce, and consequently no comment to make in response to the read out" of Ban’s conversation with Netanyahu.

Ban’s relationship with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been extremely chilly.

He routinely criticizes the Iranian leader for refusing to comply with Security Council demands to suspend his country’s uranium enrichment program. U.N. diplomats said he would use the trip to apply pressure on the Iranian government to try to persuade the Iranian leader to help calm the violence in Syria, Iran’s most important regional ally.

But Netanyahu faulted his plans to visit Tehran on the grounds that it would "grant legitimacy" to a regime that has flouted its international obligations and poses an existential threat to Israel.

"To reward Iran for its impudence by a visit of the U.N. Secretary General would be a horrible mistake," the statement said.

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch

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