Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Former Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati as Special Envoy

RFE/RL Iran Report: "Kharrazi is not the only concerned and active Iranian diplomat. Former Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati was tasked as President Khatami's special envoy and sent eastward. Velayati visited Jakarta on 18 March and delivered a message from Khatami to Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Iranian state radio reported. Velayati said, "The attack on Iraq will start a new phase of international disorder and it will threaten world security and weaken the role of the UN as well." Megawati concurred on the need to resolve the Iraq crisis under UN auspices.

Velayati arrived in Islamabad on 19 March, IRNA reported. The Iranian state news agency had reported three days earlier that Velayati was to discuss the Iraq crisis with Pakistani officials and to relay a message from President Khatami to General Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan is currently one of the nonpermanent members of the UN Security Council, and Velayati said on 19 March that "Iran and Pakistan have been consulting and coordinating at different world fora such as the UN, OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference], and NAM [Non-Aligned Movement]."

Iranian efforts did not stop after Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Velayati arrived in New Delhi on 20 March, IRNA reported, bearing a message for Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with whom he met on 21 March to discuss events in Iraq. Moreover, Kharrazi on 20 March chaired a meeting of the Foreign Ministry's "Iraq Crisis Headquarters" and had a telephone conversation with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, IRNA reported, and the next day he telephoned his British counterpart, Jack Straw, state radio reported.

These diplomatic efforts are in line with Tehran's stated policy of "active neutrality." Khamenei's anti-American statements, meanwhile, reflect Iranian hard-liners' long-standing antipathy to the United States, as well as Tehran's geopolitical concern of being surrounded by the U.S. and its allies. Nor was Tehran fully confident that its diplomatic efforts would succeed -- the Foreign Ministry announced on 19 March that it had recalled its personnel from Baghdad, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. (Bill Samii)