Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad provoked yet another controversy on Thursday saying a majority of people in the United States and around the world believe the American government staged the Sept. 11 terror attacks in an attempt to assure Israel’s survival.
The provocative comments prompted the US delegation to walk out of Ahmadinejad’s UN speech, where he also blamed the US as the power behind UN Security Council sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used as fuel for electricity generation or to build nuclear weapons.
Delegations from all 27 European Union nations followed the Americans out along with representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Costa Rica, an EU diplomat said.
Ahmadinejad said the US has allocated $80 billion to upgrade its nuclear arsenal and is not a fair judge to sit as a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council to punish Iran for its nuclear activities. Iran denies it is seeking a nuclear weapon.
The Iranian leader – who has in the past cast doubt over the US version of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – also called for setting up an independent fact-finding UN team to probe the attacks.
That, he said, would keep the terror assault from turning into what he has called a sacred issue like the Holocaust where “expressing opinion about it won’t be banned”.
After Ahmadinejad uttered those words, two American diplomats 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 the walkout.
“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.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned kings, prime ministers and presidents in his keynote address of the growing political polarization and social inequalities in the world and implored UN members to show greater tolerance and mutual respect to bring nations and peoples together.
“We hear the language of hate, false divisions between `them’ and `us,’ those who insist on `their way’ or `no way,”‘ he said.
In times of such polarization and uncertainty, Ban said, “let us remember, the world still looks to the United Nations for moral and political leadership.”
President Barack Obama, speaking soon after, echoed the secretary-general, warning that underneath challenges to security and prosperity “lie deeper fears: that ancient hatreds and religious divides are once again ascendant; that a world which has grown more interconnected has somehow slipped beyond our control.”
Obama said Iran is the only party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty “that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program” and as a result the UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of increasingly tough sanctions.