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Ahmadinejad in New York amid protests

world Updated: Sep 23, 2008 11:19 IST
DPA
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived on Monday at the UN in New York in the face of protests, amid the US presidential election fray.

Jewish-American groups held a rally on Monday morning outside UN headquarters in New York and planned another major demonstration on Tuesday, when Ahmadinejad is to give his formal address to the General Assembly.

The rally was catapulted into the US political limelight last week after it emerged that Sarah Palin, vice presidential running mate of Republican presidential nominee John McCain, was scheduled to speak.

Palin had to withdraw after organisers, fearful that the protest would become a partisan rally, rescinded her invitation. New York Senator Hillary Clinton had earlier withdrawn after it appeared that Palin would be there.

That didn't stop the McCain campaign from releasing a strongly worded speech that Palin had planned to give at the New York rally, branding Ahmadinejad a "madman" who "threatens the entire world".

Ahmadinejad "must be stopped", Palin would have said, charging the Iranian president with denying the Holocaust and seeking the destruction of both Israel and the US.

"The world must awake to the threat this man poses to all of us," her text said, adding that Iran must be prevented from gaining access to nuclear weapons.

Palin, a first-term Alaska governor, will be in New York on Tuesday. She plans to hold meetings with world leaders in a bid by the McCain campaign to bolster her foreign-policy credentials.

Few details of the visit have been revealed. The New York Times reported that she would hold talks with the leaders of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Georgia.

Ahmadinejad met on Monday evening with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Earlier on Monday, Ahmadinejad gave a strongly worded speech during a one-day UN conference on African development, accusing Western nations of sowing divisions on the continent in a bid to maintain control of Africa's natural resources.

The Iranian president said that colonial powers had committed "irreparable" crimes against Africans in the past. There were still "hegemonic powers who have turned their eyes with greed to Africa," he said.

Ahmadinejad will address the UN General Assembly and hold a press conference on Tuesday. On Thursday he plans to join a religious forum hosted by five Christian groups, an event condemned on Monday by the World Jewish Congress.

"These groups, who claim to hold up values such as peace and mutual understanding, make a mockery of themselves by shamelessly providing a cruel dictator and racist with a platform for his invective," Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said in a statement.