Angry protests greet Ahmadinejad at UN

By Nathan Guttman, September 26, 2008

A storm of condemnation greeted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's address at the United Nations General Assembly this week in which he argued that "Zionists" control money and political power in the Western world.

The Iranian president told world leaders gathered in New York that while Zionists were "minuscule" in number, they had control over the United States and many countries in Europe.

"These nations are spending their dignity and resources on the crimes and threats of the Zionist network against their will," Mr Ahmadinejad said, adding that politicians in these countries bowed to their demands.


"It is deeply disastrous to witness that some presidential nominees have to visit these people, take part in their gatherings and swear their allegiance and commitment to their interests in order to win financial or media support," he said.

The Iranian leader also said that Israel was "on a definite slope to collapse, and there is no way for it to get out of the cesspool created by itself and its supporters".

Mr Ahmadinejad's vitriolic speech drew harsh responses from Israelis and Americans alike. Israeli president Shimon Peres, who represented his country at the gathering, accused the Iranian leader of using antisemitic language in his speech. "This is the first time in the history of the United Nations that the head of a state is appearing openly and publicly with the ugly and dark accusations of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion," he said, referring to the antisemitic forgery.

Other condemnations came from US officials and presidential candidates.  Mr Ahmadinejad arrived in New York on Monday and spent the week giving press interviews to American media outlets. Upon arrival he was greeted with a large demonstration outside the UN headquarters calling to "Stop Iran Now".

The demonstration was overshadowed by last-minute changes in the protest line-up. Initially, organisers had invited Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton to speak, later adding Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

When Mrs Clinton learned of this, she cancelled her appearance, leading to a decision to cancel the participation of any elected official at the event.

Still, for the thousands who attended, it was a strong show of force against the Iranian leader and against his call to wipe Israel off the map.

"Go back to your country. We do not want you in America," said author and Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, who spoke at the rally.

Last updated: 9:59am, September 26 2008