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It’s a walkout: Iran’s president sparks protest at UN meeting

by Brad A. Greenberg

April 20, 2009 | 1:08 pm

It’s always a circus when Mahmoud’s at the UN. From the AP:

GENEVA – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Israel of being the “most cruel and racist regime,” sparking a walkout Monday by angry Western diplomats at a U.N. racism conference.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his tirade against Israel during a global racism conference. Ban says the Iranian leader used his speech “to accuse, divide and even incite,” directly opposing the aim of the meeting.

The hardline leader’s appearance overshadowed the substance of the weeklong United Nations attempt to stamp out intolerance worldwide. The United States and eight other Western countries, expressing concerns about its fairness, were already boycotting the event.

Protesters dressed with clown wigs and holding placards repeatedly interrupted Ahmadinejad’s speech with shouts of “Shame! shame!” and “Racist! racist!” throwing soft red objects on the podium. Later, about 100 members of mainly pro-Israel and Jewish groups blocked Ahmadinejad’s entrance to a scheduled news conference.

Ahmadinejad, in a rambling speech, accused Israel of being the “most cruel and racist regime” and pointed the finger at the United States and Europe for helping to establish the country after World War II “under the pretext of Jewish suffering.”

That prompted a walkout by some 40 diplomats from European countries such as Britain and France, which had threatened to leave the conference if it descended into anti-Semitic or other rhetoric harshly critical of Israel, which marred the U.N.‘s last racism gathering.

The boycotting countries expressed concern that Muslim countries would drown out many issues with calls for a denunciation of Israel and a global ban on criticizing aspects of the Islamic faith.

“As soon as he started to address the question of the Jewish people and Israel, we had no reason to stay in the room,” said French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattei.

Speaking directly after Ahmadinejad, Norway’s foreign minister said the Iranian leader’s comments “run counter to the very spirit of dignity of the conference.”

Watch the ABC News report here.

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