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POLITICS: U.N. Chief Weighs in on Iran, Libya and Afghanistan

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 29 2009 (IPS) - Addressing his monthly press conference Tuesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon refused to back a Western endorsement of a premature election victory for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, implicitly criticised Libyan Leader Muammar el-Qaddafi for denigrating the U.N. charter, and faulted Iran for lack of transparency in its nuclear programme.

Asked why he was not quick to denounce Qaddafi for ripping the U.N. Charter during his address to the General Assembly last week, Ban struck back.

The charter is the very foundation of the United Nations, and a symbol of its legitimacy, he said.

“Any behaviour to denigrate this charter is unacceptable,” he told reporters.

During a meeting with the secretary-general on Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressed “grave concern” that Ban had repeated the allegations made by a “few Western powers” about Iran’s new enrichment facility.

Instead of waiting for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is the competent body to reflect on the new enrichment facility, Ahmadinejad said Ban “had chosen to repeat the same allegations” made by the United States, Britain and France that Iran was probably developing a nuclear weapon under cover.

Asked to respond to this charge, Ban said the new uranium enrichment facility, revealed for the first time last week by Iran, is contrary to Security Council resolutions.

“They have [to make] all the processes transparent, in a most transparent way, and that they should receive the full inspections and they should give full access to IAEA,” he said.

The secretary-general said he knew that Iran has sent a letter to the IAEA on Sep. 21 about the existence of this new facility.

“But then what has happened before Sep. 21, while this facility was being constructed?” he asked.

Therefore, there’s clearly a question of transparency. Ban said the Iranian president told him that his country would be ready to accept these inspections by the IAEA.

“I sincerely hope that all these questions pertaining to this new facility and other facilities, all these pending issues concerning the nuclear development programmes of Iran, should be resolved through dialogue in a transparent and objective manner, with the IAEA involved,” he added.

Meanwhile, the secretary-general also expressed reservations over a decision by Western nations to give their political blessings for a second five-year term to beleaguered Afghan President Hamid Karzai – even before the final results have been announced in a disputed election marred by charges of fraud and ballot-stuffing.

“We have to wait for the official outcome of the counting by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC),” Ban told reporters Tuesday.

Asked about the “consensus” reached Friday by the United States and countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) that Karzai should continue as president since he has offered to join an expanded campaign against the Taliban, Ban said he was not in a position to pre-judge the ultimate winner of the election.

He said he has “full confidence and trust” in the IEC, as well as the ECC.

“I understand that the final results may be available on or around Oct. 7. So, until then, we have to wait,” he added.

The presidential elections took place Aug.20 amid threats of violence by the insurgent Taliban.

Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister and the candidate with the second largest votes, has charged that most of Karzai’s votes were not legitimate.

Kai Eide, the U.N. special representative for Afghanistan, admitted Tuesday that there were “fraud and irregularities” committed by election officials, candidates and their supporters, as well as government officials.

“The turnout was low – almost as low as during the elections for the European Parliament,” he added wryly.

Eide said that ballot boxes from around the country will be brought to Kabul for the final audit to take place.

The challenge of the ECC will be to determine and reject fraudulent ballots while at the same time avoiding disenfranchising voters who have cost their votes in good faith – “and in an Afghan cultural environment where many people have never seen a ballot paper, or never used a pen,” Eide told the Security Council Tuesday.

When the final outcome has been determined, it must be respected by candidates and their supporters.

“What most Afghans – by far, now want – is to see the election process end, a government formed, and their lives improved,” Eide added.

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