Protest planned over Ahmadinejad UN visit

By Nathan Guttman, September 19, 2008
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American Jewish groups are gearing up to protest against the annual visit of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to New York next week.

Mr Ahmadinejad will attend the United Nations General Assembly, as he did last year. The Iranian leader has been known to use the international arena for preaching his controversial views on Israel, America and the West.

The Iranian leader will be greeted by Jewish protestors with banners bearing the slogan: "Stop Iran. Now."
The protest, organised by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations, is meant to remind international public opinion that Mr Ahmadinejad allegedly supports terror and has called for the destruction of the state of Israel. A similar protest last year drew thousands of participants and was widely covered by the press.

Another campaign has been planned to protest a planned event with Mr Ahmadinejad sponsored by representatives of five churches.

Leaders of the Mennonite, Quakers, World Council of Churches, Religions for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee have joined forces and arranged for the Iranian leader an iftar dinner - the traditional meal ending the day of fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

The Anti-Defamation League called on the churches to rethink the event and refrain from conducting a dialogue with Mr Ahmadinejad, who they say is known for his antisemitic rhetoric.

"In extending an invitation to Ahmadinejad, the religious organisations sponsoring this dinner have tarnished their reputations as peace seekers and bridge builders," said ADL national director Abraham Foxman. "Their breaking bread with President Ahmadinejad is a perversion of the search for peace and an appalling betrayal of religious values."

Mr Ahmadinejad has no planned public speaking event, such as the one he held last year in Columbia University.

The Iranian leader has also reportedly encountered difficulties in obtaining an entrance visa to the US. An Iranian news agency reported on Monday that a week before his planned visit to New York, the US had yet to provide Mr Ahmadinejad with the necessary documentation to enter the country.

Still, the move is seen as mainly symbolic, since the US is obligated, according to its agreement with the UN, to facilitate the arrival of all foreign officials to the UN building in New York.

    Last updated: 9:59am, September 26 2008