KHATAMI SAVED AN OTHERWISE DULL UN'S GENERAL ASSEMBLY

By Safa Haeri, IPS Editor at the UN

UNITED NATIONS (NEW YORK) 21 SEPT. (IPS) Iranian president ayatollah Mohammad Khatami saved the day for Kofi Annan, the United Nation's General Secretary as he became the focal point of this otherwise very dull 53rd United Nations General Assembly that started Monday in New York amidst unprecedented security measures.

Addressing 30 heads of states and Prime ministers, including Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Tony Blair of England, 2 crown princes and more than 150 personalities, the black turbaned ayatollah Khatami called on the world community to put the maximum of pressure over the Afghan Taleban to stop what he described as criminal acts against humanity and the religion.

By condemning terrorism, Mr Khatami had joined president Bill Clinton, the other star of the day who received a standing ovation by an audience oblivion of the earlier release by the Congress of a 4 hours-long videotape of his testimony to a grand jury that was splashed over the world's television's screens.

Mr Clinton urged the world's leaders to give fight against terrorism, "all kind of terrorism" top priority.

Reminding the last month twin bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Mr Clinton said it was time that the world should work together to uproot terrorism everywhere, in Africa, Asia, the Middle East of Northern Ireland.

All the time Mr Clinton was at the UN, unprecedented security measures had a large area around the building declared "frozen zone" preventing for hours anyone to enter the premises.

He also expressed words of sympathy with the Iranians on the assassination by the Taleban of 10 Iranian diplomats and one journalist in Mazare Sharif.

Mr Khatami, the first Iranian president to come to the UN in the past 12 years proposed that all parties involved in the Afghan conflict should hold negotiations under UN and Islamic auspices, adding that the talks should be aimed at "securing agreement on a broad-based government, representing all ethnic groups, communities and tendencies in that country."

Khatami said that "the United Nations, in co-operation with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, of which he is the current president, and concerned states, should bring all the parties to the conflict to the negotiating table, paving the way for poor Afghan people to freely choose their own destiny."

Khatami said that such negotiations, backed by "solemn global support" should "bring the rogue elements into compliance with the will of the international community."

As he was addressing the Assembly, about a hundred of members of the outlawed, Iraqi backed and financed Mojahedeen Khalq were demonstrating against him.

He confirmed that Iran was serious in normalising its relations with both the West and its neighbours, but said nothing about Iran's relations with the US.

Prior to Khatami's speech, the Iranian ambassador, Hadi Nezhad-Hosseinian pressed the UN Security Council to send a mission to Afghanistan to stop mass killings of the civilians by Taleban fighters and secure the release of all Iranian that are prisoners of the Taleban .

In a letter to the Security Council, the Head of the Iranian Mission at the UN said that the adoption by the council of effective measures could avert the threat of a military conflict between Iran and the Taleban.

Mr Nezhad also demanded that the security Council put pressure on the Taleban for the killers of the Iranians were brought to justice.

In a goodwill gesture towards Iran, the Taleban had released five Iranian

During the day, Mr Khatami had successively met with the General Secretary Kofi Annan and the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as well as with a dozen of Iranians working for the United Nations in New York.

According to a Pakistani spokesman, the meeting had lessened tensions between Iran and Pakistan.

"The meeting was useful in removing any misperceptions of Pakistan's role, the spokesman, Mr Ahmad said during a news briefing, referring to Iranian accusations that Pakistan is officially involved in the Afghan conflict.

An Iranian source at the UN told the IPS that Mr Sharif has promised the Iranian president to do his best to secure to release of all Iranian prisoners.

Asked about a meeting at the United Nations on Monday on Afghanistan Ahmed said he was hopeful that it would produce results.

Foreign ministers of six of Afghanistan's neighbours Pakistan, Iran, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, plus those of Russia and the United States met to discuss the escalating conflict in Afghanistan under the chairmanship of UN chief Kofi Annan.

This was the first time that Iranian and American Foreign Minister were sitting face to face.

According to UN sources, the 6+2 was expected to decide on whether sending a fact-finding mission in the region.

Pakistan has so far opposed such an initiative, informed sources speculated.

James Rubin, the State Department's official spokesman said Washington was encouraged the Iranian view concerning the a broad-base meeting between all Afghan parties.

A Taleban spokesman told the French News Agency AFP that they will have no prior condition in opening negotiations with Iran, adding, "the only thing we ask the Iranians is to stop interfering in our internal affairs". ENDS KHATAMI SHINES AT UN 2199801