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Shocking the world: Seven times leaders stole the show at the UN

Donald Trump is just the latest world leader to grab headlines at the world body.

world Updated: Sep 21, 2017 11:16 IST
Kartikeya Ramanathan
Kartikeya Ramanathan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
President Donald Trump at a luncheon with African leaders at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017.(AP)

When Donald Trump used the UN general assembly to mock and ridicule North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un, he joined a long list of leaders whose speeches at the world body have grabbed the headlines.

1. January 23, 1957: Indian leader VK Krishna Menon

Menon delivered an unprecedented eight-hour speech at the UN Security Council, defending India’s stand on Kashmir — the longest speech at the world body ever. According to reports, he collapsed from exhaustion while delivering the speech, was rushed to hospital, came back to the UN and continued with his speech, while a doctor monitored his blood pressure.

Pakistan high commissioner Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola chats with VK Krishna Menon during a reception at India House in London on January 24, 1952. (Getty Images)

2. September 9, 1960: Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev

Khrushchev banged his shoe on his desk after a speech by Philippines’ diplomat Lorenzo Sumulong left him enraged. Sumulong said East Europeans were “deprived of political and civil rights” and the countries had been “swallowed up by the Soviet Union”, which led to Khrushchev brandishing his right shoe at the Philippine delegation before banging it on his desk.

Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev (centre) holds up the hands of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, and Valery Bykovsky, who holds the record for time in space. (Getty Images)

3. December 15, 1971: Pakistan foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Bhutto dramatically walked out of the UN Security Council after accusing it of “legalising aggression” when the Soviet Union vetoed a resolution urging India to withdraw its troops during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. After walking out, he told the press: “I hate this body. I don’t want to see their faces again. I’d rather go back to a destroyed Pakistan.” However, he clarified that Pakistan was not breaking relations with the Security Council or the UN.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto speaking at London airport on July 23, 1973. (Getty Images)

4. November 12, 1974: Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman Yasser Arafat

When Arafat was invited to address the General Assembly at the urging of the non-aligned movement, he called for a Palestinian state that “would welcome Muslim, Christians and Jews” and warned the body to create such a state, because “today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

Yasser Arafat at the Arab League summit in Rabat, Morocco in 1974. (Getty Images)

5. September 20, 2006: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Chavez, who intensely disliked George W Bush, took to the podium at the General Assembly a day after the US president and said that “the devil came here yesterday, and (the room) still smells of sulphur”, all while making the sign of the cross, supposedly to ward off evil. A few years later, after Barack Obama had been elected president, Chavez reminded everyone of his speech when he said the room “no longer smells of sulphur”.

Hugo Chavez speaks at a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela on November 30, 2006. (Getty Images)

6. September 23, 2009: Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi

Gaddafi, in a 96-minute speech at the General Assembly, accused the US of “developing swine flu”, questioned the John F Kennedy assassination and claimed that the UN Security Council was akin to the al-Qaeda. But Gaddafi grabbed headlines off the podium as well — he refused to stay at a hotel, setting up a Bedouin camp in the backyard of one of Donald Trump’s properties.

Muammar Gaddafi arrives at Ciampino airport in Rome on August 29, 2010. (Getty Images)

7. September 23, 2011: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad shocked the General Assembly when he claimed that European countries “still use the Holocaust after six decades as the excuse to pay a fine to the Zionists”, referring to arch-enemy Israel. He also accused the US of orchestrating the September 11, 2001 attacks and claimed that the powers that be killed Osama bin Laden instead of investigating “hidden elements involved in September 11”. His speech prompted a mass walkout by diplomats from around the world.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holds a press conference in Tehran on June 14, 2009. (Getty Images)

First Published: Sep 21, 2017 09:50 IST