Ali Akbar Dareini / Associated Press & Al Jazeera – 2010-09-24 00:08:59
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been in the spotlight since his arrival in the United States for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals summit. However, as he addressed the UN General Assembly, it is not what he said that attracted attention but what happened during the simultaneous translation of his speech.
Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari explains what the controversy is all about.
US Walks Out on Ahmadinejad’s UN Speech
Ali Akbar Dareini / Associated Press
NEW YORK (September 23, 2010) — The US delegation walked out of the UN speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday after he said some in the world have speculated that Americans were behind the Sept. 11 terror attacks, staged in an attempt to assure Israel’s survival. He did not explain the logic of that statement that was made as he attacked the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of Israel and is deeply at odds with the United States and European allies over its nuclear program and suspicions that it is designed to produce an atomic bomb. Iran says it is only working on technology for electricity generation.
The US delegation left the hall after Ahmadinejad said there were three theories about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks:
* That “powerful and complex terrorist group” penetrated US intelligence and defenses.
* “That some segments within the US government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime. The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view.”
The Americans stood and walked out without listening to the third theory, that the attack was the work of “a terrorist group but the American government supported and took advantage of the situation.”
Mark Kornblau, spokesman of the US Mission to the world body, issued a statement within moments of Ahmadinejad’s attack.
“Rather than representing the aspirations and goodwill of the Iranian people,” he said, “Mr. Ahmadinejad has yet again chosen to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable.”
Ahmadinejad, who has in the past cast doubt over the US version of the Sept. 11 attacks, called for establishment of an independent fact-finding UN body to probe the attacks and stop it from turning into another sacred issue where “expressing opinion about it won’t be banned.”
He said the US used the attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan and Iraq that led to the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, saying the US should have “designed a logical plan” to punish the perpetrators while not sheding so much blood.
Ahmadinejad boasted of the capture in February of Abdulmalik Rigi, the leader of an armed Sunni group whose insurgency in the southeast of Iran has destabilized the border region with Pakistan. He said authorities did not resort to violence, but captured the suspect after trailing his movements in an operation by Iranian secret agents. Rigi was later hanged.
The Iranian leader spoke of threats to burn the Quran by a small American church in Florida to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Although that church backed down, several copycat burnings were posted on the Internet and broadcast in the Muslim world.
“Very recently the world witnessed the ugly and inhumane act of burning the holy Quran,” Ahmadinejad said.
He briefly touch on the four sets of sanctions imposed on his country by the United Nations over Tehran’s refusal stop enriching uranium and to prove Iran is not trying to build an atomic bomb.
Some members of the Security Council have “equated nuclear energy with nuclear bombs,” Ahmadinejad said.
He accused the United States of building up its nuclear arsenal instead of dismantling it and reiterated his call for a nuclear-free world.
“The nuclear bomb is the worst inhumane weapon which must totally be eliminated. The NPT (Nonproliferation Treaty) prohibits its development and stockpiling and calls for nuclear disarmament,” the Iranian president said.
Ahmadinejad hinted that Iran is ready for talks on its nuclear program provided they are based on “justice and respect”, suggesting that the US and its allies must stop pressuring Iran through sanctions before Tehran will sit at the negotiating table.
He again rejected the UN Security Council sanctions as “illegal,” blaming the US as the power behind the measures.
“Those who have used intimidation and sanctions in response to the clear logic of the Iranian nation are in real terms destroying the remaining credibility of the Security Council,” Ahmadinejad said.
Ahmadinejad has in the past called the Security Council a “satanic tool” and has called its anti-Iran resolutions “not worth a cent.”
UN Walkout over Ahmadinejad Speech
NEW YORK (September 24, 2010) — US diplomats and other Western delegations have walked out of a United Nations summit as the Iranian president said some believe the 9/11 attacks on the US was the work of Americans to save Israel. Two US officials led the walkout as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the General Assembly in New York on Thursday. They were quickly followed by the British and other Western delegations.
Ahmadinejad said there was a theory that “some segments within the US government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime. “The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view,” he said.
PJ Crowley, the US assistant secretary of state, told Al Jazeera the statement was “totally outrageous…. [Those killed in the attacks] were people of all faiths, all nationalities. They were killed by 19 people, a plot perpetrated by al-Qaeda,” he said. “We know who did it and they have admitted who did it. This idea that nine years later there is still some debate about who did it and why is outrageous.”
Lawrence Cannon, Canada’s foreign minister, called Ahmadinejad’s comments “unacceptable” and “a blatant violation of international standards and of the very spirit of the UN.” About 3,000 people died when hijackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and a fourth aircraft plummeted into a Pennsylvania field in 2001.
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said: “[Ahmadinejad’s] attack on the traditional version of the 9/11 story was similar to his attack on the traditional version of the holocaust. “So you can now say President Ahmadinejad is both a 9/11 denier and a holocaust denier. And that simply does not set a positive tone for any negotiations with the Americans, but also underlines that Iran is not interested in talks anytime soon.”
Ahmadinejad briefly touched on the four sets of UN sanctions imposed on his country over Tehran’s refusal stop enriching uranium and to prove Iran is not trying to build an atomic bomb. Some members of the Security Council have “equated nuclear energy with nuclear bombs,” Ahmadinejad said.
He accused the US of building up its nuclear arsenal instead of dismantling it and reiterated his call for a nuclear-free world.
The UN Security Council in June imposed a fourth set of sanctions against Iran and the European Union and the US have added even more extensive sanctions targeting its foreign trade. Iran insists that its nuclear program has only peaceful intentions.
In his speech, Ahmadinejad condemned some of the permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — for monopolizing nuclear power. He said the criticism of Iran comes “at the same time they have continued to maintain, expand and upgrade their own nuclear arsenals.” He said 2011 should be declared a year of nuclear disarmament — “Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for None.”
Ahmadinejad said that Iran was ready for negotiations but dismissed suggestions that such an act would be giving in to international pressure. “We have never submitted to illegally imposed pressures nor will we ever do so. It has been said that they want to pressure Iran into a dialogue,” he said. “Firstly, Iran has always been ready for a dialogue based on respect and justice. Secondly, methods based on disrespecting nations have long become ineffective.”
US ‘Door Open’
Hours before Ahmadinejad’s speech, Barack Obama, the US president, told the General Assembly that the US was open to diplomacy with Iran only if it proves that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.
“The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it,” he said. “But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment, and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.” However, Obama also noted that he made the same overture, in the same forum, a year ago, and tensions continue.
About 800 people including many of Iranian origin protested outside the UN headquarters as Ahmadinejad was attending the General Assembly. They chanted “Ahmadinejad is a terrorist” and staged a street performance depicting people stained with fake blood and scenes of hanging and stoning.
“It is time for the international community to stop dealing with Ahmadinejad and finally recognize and empower the opposition, so that the Iranian people can finally get the democratic change it deserves,” Ali Safavi, a demonstrator, said.
Many of the demonstrators were affiliated with the People’s Mujahidin Organization of Iran, which is officially listed as a foreign terrorist organization in the US, although a judge ruled in July that it should be removed from the blacklist.
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