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U.N. chief alarmed by ‘war talk,’ Syrian crisis

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2012

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday expressed alarm at the "shrill war talk" between Iran and Israel, and urged leaders to cool their rhetoric.

Mr. Ban did not name either country, but diplomats at the U.N. said his remarks were a clear reference to the simmering tensions between Israel and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program.

U.S. officials have ruled out a military option against Iran, while Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the U.S. to issue an ultimatum to Tehran.

On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel has no roots in the Middle East and threatened it with elimination.

Mr. Ban rejected the "language of delegitimization and threats of potential military action by one state against another."

"Any such attacks would be devastating," he said. "The shrill war talk of recent weeks has been alarming and should remind us of the need for peaceful solutions and full respect of the United Nations Charter and international law."

"Leaders have a responsibility to use their voices to lower tensions instead of raising the temperatures and volatility of the moment," he added.

Mr. Ban said Iran must prove the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

The U.N. chief, in remarks to the General Assembly, also touched on the civil war in Syria, which he said is growing "worse by worse." The uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, which started in March 2011, is a "regional calamity with global ramifications," he said.

Mr. Ban said nations must stop arming both sides in the conflict, hold perpetrators of human rights abuse to account and back a Syria-led transition.

"Humanitarian needs are escalating. … The international community should not look the other way as the violence spirals out of control," he said. "It is the duty of our generation to put an end to impunity for international crimes in Syria and elsewhere."

He struck a pessimistic note on the future of peace in the Middle East.

The door of opportunity for implementing a two-state solution to resolve the Israel-Palestinian issue "may be closing for good," he said, attributing this to the unchecked growth of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory.

Palestinians have endured decades of "harsh occupation and humiliating restrictions" and must be able to realize their right to a viable state of their own, he said. Israel, too, "must be able to live in peace and security free from threats and rockets," he added.

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