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Head of ex-leaders: US killing made Mideast more `volatile’

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Former Irish president Mary Robinson, who heads the group of prominent former leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, says the U.S. assassination of Iran’s top general has made the Middle East more “volatile” and “unstable.”

She said in a recent interview that the group, known as The Elders, believes the U.S. airstrike that killed Gen.l Qassem Soleimani “was not authorized” because “there does not seem to have been the basis under international law for the strike to take place.”

“We are glad that the measured response by Iran has for the moment cooled things,” Robinson said.

But she said the situation in the region is more volatile, not safer, pointing to the vote in Iraq’s parliament to withdraw U.S. troops which “has put them in a more precarious situation … so there’s heightened tension there.” She also pointed to Soleimani’s supporters who saw him as “a great hero, and the worry is they may want to take their own little revenge.”

What’s needed, Robinson said, is cooperation as the world seeks to address “the alarming escalation of tensions in the Middle East.”

She told the U.N. Security Council last Thursday it was “highly regrettable” that the Trump administration prevented Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif from addressing its members that day on “Upholding The U.N. Charter,” saying “it is precisely in times such as these that we need to hear the voices of all concerned.”

Last month, The Elders put out a statement saying “the multilateral system is under unprecedented attack.”

“Isolationists and arbitrary actions by leading powers, including the United States, are threatening to undermine critical efforts to tackle global challenges from nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation to climate change and the regulation of international trade,” the group said.

Robinson said in the interview last Friday that a number of countries are involved in undermining multilateralism, and “sadly the United States is a big culprit.”

She cited a series of steps the Trump administration has taken including abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, leaving the U.N. Human Rights Council, and refusing to appoint judges to the World Trade Organization’s appeal mechanism which has made the WTO “much less effective” in dealing with disputes.

Robinson stressed that The Elders want to be constructive and “try to have constructive engagement as much as possible.”

“That’s why we keep the door open to dialogue with Iran at the moment,” she said, noting The Elders’ support for the nuclear deal which Trump pulled out of in May 2018.

Last year, members of The Elders met with the presidents of Russia, China and France and Britain’s deputy prime minister.

Robinson said the group sought a meeting with Trump last September which didn’t materialize. She said she and her deputy, former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, will be in Washington on Jan. 23 and have made another request for a meeting with the U.S. president.

Associated Press