The United Nations said on Wednesday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did not congratulate Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his contested re-election, reversing a previous statement.
Asked on Tuesday if Ban had sent a congratulatory letter to Ahmadinejad, UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said "yes." But when reporters asked her for details on Wednesday, she said it could not be construed in any way as congratulating Ahmadinejad.
"It is not accurate to refer to this as a congratulatory letter," she said, adding the United Nations would not release the contents of the letter.
Okabe said Ban's letter "takes advantage of the occasion of the inauguration to express the hope that Iran and the United Nations will continue to cooperate closely in addressing regional and global issues."
A spokesman for Iran's UN mission could not be reached for comment.
The results of Iran's June 12 election plunged the country into its biggest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, exposed deepening divisions in its ruling elite and set off a wave of protests that left 26 people dead.
Western leaders, already upset by Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel rhetoric, Holocaust denial and uncompromising nuclear line, refused to congratulate the president on his inauguration last week, although their counterparts in Japan and Turkey did so.
Among those leaders who withheld their congratulations were US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The secretary-general routinely congratulates leaders after elections but UN officials say this does not mean he endorses them or the electoral processes that put them in their posts. The United Nations has released the content of some of those messages in the past.
The UN Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for rejecting council demands that Tehran halt its nuclear enrichment program, which Iran says is for a civilian energy program but the West suspects is for weapons.
Asked about Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi's request that Ban visit Iran to receive a first-hand account of human rights abuses after the presidential election, Okabe said only that Ban had not spoken with Ebadi.
Ebadi says more than 100 people have been killed since the election.
Ahmadinejad is expected to come to New York next month to attend the annual UN General Assembly gathering of world leaders.