AFP: Iran and Syria must work with the international community if they want to cease being isolated from world affairs, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said in an interview published in The Financial Times on Tuesday. LONDON, Sept 12, 2006 (AFP) – Iran and Syria must work with the international community if they want to cease being isolated from world affairs, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said in an interview published in The Financial Times on Tuesday.
The two countries will “have to take some responsibilities”, Annan told the newspaper.
The UN’s top diplomat said that after meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad he concluded that the two “were very keen to be accepted … and have normal relations with the rest of the world.”
In Annan’s view, neither country was proud of its isolated status: “It is a question of having no choice … Syria’s behaviour has isolated itself, but I think it is bravado. Iran is very keen to be accepted and have normal relations with … the rest of the world.”
The UN Security Council demanded Iran suspend uranium enrichment activities by August 31 or face the prospect of sanctions.
The US and European governments suspect Iran is pursuing a clandestine project to build atomic weapons, but Tehran insists its program is designed purely for the generation of electricity.
Annan said, regarding the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, he felt the world’s powers and Iran were “headed for a confrontation, unless we find a way to get all the people to step back and reflect. But I am not sure how much room for flexibility either side is going to give.”
Iran’s “economy is not so strong. They are not making as much progress as other countries. When they travel in the region … they see how even smaller countries are moving on.
“But they have sanctions, they are isolated. Who will say ‘this is the way we want to be’?”
He also said that the ongoing violence in Iraq was radicalisaing opinion in the Middle East.
“Iraq has really caused a problem … America is in a situation now where it cannot stay and it cannot leave.”
“So whatever the US has to do, the timing of any withdrawal must be optimal, in the sense that it will do least harm, and will not trigger disintegration of Iraq, when the region and the world will blame the US.”
Annan, who has less than four months in office, was hopeful that a stabilising peace in Lebanon, after a month-long clash between Israel and the Shiite militia Hezbollah, might provide a basis for a more wide-reaching peace process in the region.