Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a fiery tirade before the United Nations General Assembly Thursday, accusing the United States, Israel and NATO of tyranny and insinuating U.S. Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden in order to keep incriminating details about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks secret.
Several minutes after Ahmadinejad began his half-hour long address, U.S. delegates and those of other nations walked out.
He spoke just one day after Iran released two American hikers who had been jailed as spies for more than two years. Ahmadinejad opened with a laundry list of questions:
“Which [governments] are responsible for the world economic recession?” he asked. “Which governments are ever ready to drop thousands of bombs on other countries?”
The controversial Iranian leader also pondered, “Who used the mysterious September 11th incident” to launch wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to obtain oil resources? He claimed that the U.S.-Special Forces killing of Osama bin Laden in May may have had a hidden agenda.
“Instead of assigning a fact-finding team, they killed the main perpetrator and threw his body into the sea. Why should it not have been allowed to bring him in to trial?” he inquired. “Is there any classified information that must be kept secret?”
Ahmadinejad, who has publicly questioned the historical legitimacy of the Holocaust, also criticized U.S. and European support of Israel.
“European countries still use the Holocaust after six decades as the excuse to pay ransom or fine to Zionists,” he blasted.
Similar outbursts at the world body have become a trademark of the Iranian leader, as has controversial remarks made in other forums. In 2005, published reports quoted Ahmadinejad as stating that “the occupying regime” of Israel “must be wiped off the map,” though there has been debate whether the original translation reprinted by media outlets across the globe was completely accurate. Ahmadinejad marked Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008 by describing the Israeli regime as “a stinking corpse…on its way to annihilation.”
Iran has been under intense scrutiny by the United States and other nations to curtail its nuclear ambitions, which Ahmadinejad has insisted is aimed at peaceful endeavors, not nuclear weapons, as critics suggest.
On Tuesday, Ahmadinejad told New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof in an interview that Iran would halt uranium enrichment immediately if it’s offered the levels of enriched uranium it can use for peaceful power. The column was published Wednesday [Full Transcript Here].
“If they give us the 20-percent enriched uranium this very week, we will cease the domestic enrichment of uranium of up to 20 percent this very week,” he told Kristof. “We only want the 20 percent enrichment for our domestic consumption. If they give it to us according to international law, according to IAEA laws, without preconditions, we will cease domestic enrichment.”
Ahmadinejad made the same offer in an interview published in The Washington Post earlier this month.
President Barack Obama criticized Iran’s nuclear ambitions in his address to the U.N. Wednesday, telling world leaders: “The Iranian government can not demonstrate that its program is peaceful, [it] has not met its obligations, and rejected offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power.”
Ahmadinejad has been an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, which he told the U.N. General Assembly in 2008, has endured “sixty years of carnage and invasion … at the hands of some criminal and occupying Zionists.”
An anticipated move by Palestinians for a vote on statehood recognition—which would force a showdown with the United States, which has insisted on continued negotiations between Palestine and Israel before such a proposal—has dominated the current 66th General Assembly session of the world body.
Despite U.S. concerns, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to present the application for statehood on Friday.