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WASHINGTON — The United States welcomed Thursday a decision by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy to criticize Iran and Syria during a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran.
Ban and Morsy’s decisions to attend a summit hosted by Iran raised concerns in some quarters, but Washington expressed satisfaction when they chose to use the opportunity to tackle Tehran and its ally in Damascus respectively.
US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell hailed Morsy’s stern slap down of Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime, which caused the Syrian delegation to walk out of a session the Tehran summit in anger.
"They are very helpful comments. They are very clear, very strong. Really strong and clear statement by President Morsy, obviously made in Tehran," he said, suggesting the remarks had more power for having been made in Iran.
"His comments in support of the Syrian people were very clear and we share Egypt's goal to see an end to the Assad regime and an end to the bloodshed and a transition to a democratic Syria that respects human rights."
Ventrell also thanked Ban for risking the anger of his Iranian hosts to slam Tehran's repeated threats and insults towards Israel. "We think that is a good thing," the spokesperson said.
Egypt has traditionally been aligned with Western interests in regional matters and Morsy’s decision to attend the summit made him the first Egyptian leader in decades to visit Iran, governed by an Islamic regime.
Some in the West saw this as a worrying sign that Cairo's new Muslim Brotherhood-led government is re-aligning its ties, but Morsy used his appearance to fire a broadside against Iran's ally Syria.
Morsy said his own election was the result of the same Arab Spring protest movement that triggered the revolt against Assad in Syria. Iran has stood by its Damascus ally, but Morsy made it clear where Egypt stands.
"Our solidarity with the struggle of Syrians against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty, and a political and strategic necessity," Morsy declared.
Ban also had tough words for Tehran during the summit, slamming the regime's leadership for their "outrageous" threats against Israel and for denying the reality of Nazi Germany's Holocaust massacre of Jews.
"Claiming another UN member state does not have the right to exist or describe it in racist terms is not only utterly wrong but undermines the very principles we have all promised to uphold," Ban added.