KATHMANDU: Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai is all set to embark on a visit to Iran to participate in the 16th Non-alignment Movement summit, even as pressure diplomacy is continuously being played out.
The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Israel have urged Nepal to ensure a non-prime ministerial-level Nepali delegation in Tehran for the summit scheduled for August 26-31.
Last week Prime Minister Bhattarai decided that he would visit Tehran on August 29 with a 20-member delegation. He is also scheduled to address the NAM summit. Immediately after the decision, these countries have been persistently urging Nepal to scale down the visit, arguing that such a high-profile visit, led by the prime minister, would mean Nepal’s green signal to Iran’s ‘aggressive policy’ towards Israel and the West and ‘its quest to acquire nuclear weapons’.
Senior figures of these countries’ missions in Kathmandu recently met officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including Foreign Secretary Durga Prasad Bhattarai, separately, and urged them to ‘play down’ the visit. “They were, however, not of the opinion that Nepal should avoid the summit. They said it would be better if the head of delegation were not of the prime minister’s level,” a highly placed source quoted Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha.
Sources said Israeli Ambassador Hanan Goder Goldberger and Deputy Chief of Mission of the UK Embassy, Guy Harrison, today met top MoFA officials to convey their concerns.
Harrison said a prime minister-level visit to Iran would implicitly mean ‘Nepal’s support to terrorism like activities that Iran has been carrying out’, according to sources who added that Israeli Ambassador Goder Goldberger reminded the MoFA officials of Iranian president’s recent remarks of ‘removing Israel from the (world) map’.
MoFA officials have been learnt to have told the diplomats that Prime Minister Bhattarai was not going to Iran to hold bilateral meetings with Iran and that he was going there to attend the NAM summit in Nepal’s capacity of founder member of NAM, as it has been the tradition of attending the summit (by founder member nations) at king’s level during the monarchy and at prime minister’s level thereafter.
DPM Shrestha told THT that the government has made it clear to the foreign missions in Nepal that ‘Nepal does not support any terrorist activities in any form and manifestation.’
Game of chicken
KATHMANDU: Reports of late have been rife that Washington, Jerusalem and Tehran have been engaged in the diplomatic chicken game over Iran. The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the Obama administration on Monday said Iran did not deserve to host a summit of non-aligned nations but urged foreign leaders who decide to attend to press the Iranian government comply with international demands to come clean about its nuclear programme. The US State Department predicted Iran would use the Non Aligned Movement summit in Tehran to advance its own agenda and shift attention from its defiance of requirements to prove it is not trying to develop atomic weapons.