U.N. chief calls off visit to Iran

NEW YORK (AP) – U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has canceled a trip to Iran in response to increasing tension over the Iranian president’s call for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

Annan decided it is “not an appropriate time” for him to go to Iran, citing the “ongoing controversy” over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s remarks last week, according to a statement from the secretary-general’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.

On Oct. 26, Ahmadinejad demanded the Jewish state be “wiped off the map.” He has since defended the call, which drew international criticism.

Annan expressed “dismay” last week over the remarks in a rare rebuke of a U.N. member state.

“In light of the ongoing controversy, it would have been difficult to advance the agenda that (Annan) had wanted to discuss with the Iranian leadership,” Dujarric’s statement said Friday.

U.S. lawmakers had been urging Annan over the past week to cancel his trip to Iran.

His revised itinerary includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Pakistan, with a brief stop in Paris to meet with French President Jacques Chirac on Monday.

Israelis foreign ministry said Annan made the right moved. “This is not a time for business as usual with the regime in Tehran,” said spokesman Mark Regev. He added that Israel “welcomes the international outrage” over Ahmadinejad’s remarks.

Israel accuses Iran of backing Palestinian militant groups as well as the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.

Since the 1967 and 1973 Mideast wars, Israel has come under attack in the United Nations from a coalition of developing countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

In 1975, the General Assembly voted to equate Zionism with racism, a move that was repealed in the 1990s. But Annan has said “deep and painful scars remain” for both sides. He has made a priority of reaching out to Jews during his tenure.


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