Iran’s leader flashed a thumbs-down Tuesday as US President George W Bush denounced Tehran as a sponsor of global terrorism in his farewell address to the UN. Bush got less than 10 seconds of polite applause at the end of a speech in which he urged world leaders to take “an unequivocal moral stand” against suicide bombings, hostage taking and other terror tactics.
It was a low-key appearance, rehashing familiar themes, devoid of the passion Bush displayed in the early years of his presidency when he summoned the world after September 11, 2001, to a battle against terrorism and tried — but failed — to win UN backing for the war in Iraq.
Bush’s 22-minute address in the packed, 2,000-seat hall was mostly a restatement of his previous condemnations of terror, calls to advance democracy and criticism of the UN for “inefficiency and corruption” and “bloated bureaucracies.” Still, Bush said the UN and other multinational organisations are now “needed more urgently than ever” to combat terrorists and extremists who are threatening world order.
At the General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sat in the hall and seemed intent on showing disinterest as Bush spoke. He waved to the people in the galleries along the side and flashed a broad smile. Turning to an aide as Bush spoke, Ahmadinejad made a fist and turned his thumb down to the desk. The Iranian leader has defied demands from the US and other powers to halt a suspected nuclear weapons programme. Ahmadinejad has vowed that Iran’s military will “break the hand” of anyone targeting the country’s nuclear facilities.
Bush warned: “As the 21st century unfolds, some may be tempted to assume that the threat has receded. This would be comforting. It would be wrong. The terrorists believe time is on their side, so they’ve made waiting out civilised nations part of their strategy. We must not allow them to succeed.”