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April 21st, 2009
09:31 AM ET

Iran's president sparks walkout

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="European Union delegates leave during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech Monday."]

From CNN's Bob Ruff

UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon thought he had an understanding with Iranian President Mamoud Ahmadinejad to stay on message Monday at the UN’s racism conference in Geneva.

But when it came time to speak later in the day, Mr. Ahmadinejad launched into a tirade against Israel, Western Europe, and the United States. He was especially tough on Israel, saying that they are racists by running “the most cruel and repressive regime in Palestine.”

Many of the delegates hung around to listen to all of it, but dozens expressed their displeasure by walking out barely 3 minutes into the speech. Protestors repeatedly tried to interrupt the President’s speech.

The United States and Israel apparently anticipated Ahmadinejad’s tirade. They never even bothered to show up. President Obama’s chief spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters, “I think the President and the Administration made the right decision by not going forward in attendance, despite obviously a president who believes greatly that racism and intolerance must be addressed.”

The woman in charge of the conference, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was upset. Pillay told reporters that she was “shocked and saddened by everything he (Ahmadinejad) said.” She was especially troubled that the Iranian President “departed from the cardinal rule of this conference, that we deal with the conference in terms of themes and concepts rather than focusing on any one country.”

What did the Israelis think of all of it? Their UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev told CNN it’s a “very sad day for the international community.” She also pointed the finger right back at Ahmadinejad by adding there’s “a lot of racism in Iran itself. Iran is stoning women. Iran is hanging gays.”

During his controversial visit to New York in 2006 Ahmadinejad said there were no gays in Iran. He also said the murder of six million Jews in Europe should not be treated as fact.

The Betelsmann Foundation’s Laurie Dundon has an idea why Ahmadinejad makes such controversial remarks. She says it’s domestic politics. “I think he’s walking that line” she says, to “placate both the hardliners at home and (Iran’s) role on the global stage.”

Filed under: Controversy • Iran
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Ranbar

    It's clear that Israel is Racist as well,look at what they have done to the arabs in the westbank, Ahmadinejad was around for some time and he have seen Israel destroy so much ,can't blame him for the stance he has taken against Israel and the U.S . Maybe Presidant Obama can make some differance .

    April 22, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  2. Art

    Mr. president, it is my hope you will establish some sort of rapport with this man. I think you need to keep an eye on him.

    April 22, 2009 at 6:50 am |
  3. hak

    Gents & ladies,
    Dan is talking about religion & it is the room for politics here. Islam means "PEACE" with God, ourrsleves & creatures. I won't detail further because "PEACE" is well known to animails rather than humans. It is time for US (& Western) to respect the other half of the world. 400 years ago, when muslims dominated the world for almost 1000 years, muslims brought PEACE & KNOWLEDGE that freed & educated the westerns & the world. Afterwords, western started the wars & killing every where in the world!! even in North America... It is time to pay back to the Arab & Muslim worlds what their anciestors delivered. Walking out of a room does not help bridging the gap rather than insisting in hating the rest of the world. Equal treatment & Rights is the right of every person & country.. US & Western is protecting & coverning their eyes on what Israel did to palastinies & recently in Gaza! So whom eyes are u looking by!!

    April 22, 2009 at 2:44 am |
  4. JayQ

    Was this seen on Iranian television?

    April 22, 2009 at 1:45 am |
  5. owlminerva

    I think it was completely inappropriate for Ahmadenejad to be giving this speech. All the UN has is its reputation, and this reputation has been severely damaged with this spectacle. Maybe it is a lot of fun to see israel be whipped by A., but too many people depend for their survival on the UN, too many are affected by racism (not in the least those in Iran) to let this clown do his one and only trick and jeoapardize the whole conference. A. is guilty of the same self-centerness as Israel and the US. By not participating, or by giving such an inflammatory speech (we are lucky they made him take out the holocaust denial) they completely disregard the needs of the people this conference was made for.
    I completely disagree with Israel's actions. But that doesn't make me a fan of Ahmadinejad. He actually did an enormous disservice to the palestinian cause. Israeli hard liners couldn't have wished for a better display and a better reason to aggravate the conflict. I am starting to think A. is zionist's biggest supporter.
    Ban ki moon should be made to resign over letting this happen. It was not good for anything, except for those that want more conflict, war and bloodshed.

    April 21, 2009 at 3:54 pm |
  6. Jackie in Dallas

    Let's drop the religious talk here and look at the facts. The subject is racism, not nationalism. Ahmadinejad started a tirade against the U.S. and Israel, both nations, not against Christianity or Judaism which are religions. Yes, there probably was a religious subtext, Iran is basically a theocracy run by a religion, but the topic was racism. My objection to what Ahmadinejad said is based on the fact that the U.S. in particular is not a race but a nation composed of many races. I am glad so many attendees walked out during his speech, because maybe, just maybe, it will show Iranian leaders that the world in general does not support their stance.

    As well, there are still veterans in the U.S. who were among those who liberated the German concentration camps - and who saw the stacks of bodies. Too many people from Britain, France, Russia, and the U.S. saw what they saw in Germany and Poland. There are too many survivors of those camps still around. For Ahmadinejad to continue to express his disbelief in what they saw and experienced is stupid.

    April 21, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  7. Dan Nelson

    What happened at the UN conference on racism shows the world that Iran and the nations that applauded his speech that the Arab and Muslim world can’t and won’t work for peace between them and the western world! They believe that their way of life is the way all should live according to the Quran! They are against the Christian way of life which is love thy neighbor as thyself and forgiveness of ones sins as they repent. No they are cruel to the sinner and show no sympathy for the sinner even if they ask for forgiveness they still flog them publicly which is not the Christian way! It’s time the world stands up against these kinds of rulers and their laws which is against the laws of God/Jesus!

    April 21, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  8. Dan Nelson

    To tell you the truth I am a white person and I love Barak Obama not because of his policies which some I disagree with like engaging with Iran when they treat not only the western world with contempt but their own people but because of his love for Christ, family and country. I just think he should be more concerned with the anti-Americanism and hatred for the western world that is embracing the Muslim world! Yes God says love thy enemy but when they support the terrorists and want the destruction of the western way of life you have to stand up for your beliefs in the Christian way of life while many Muslims want to put an end to it! I think the president should show the world that any leaders of any countries that want the destruction of the western way of life and that supports terrorists that is bent on the destruction of the western world with shock and awe tenfold of what president Bush showed in Iraq! This is the only way to stop what I call the anti-Christ which the terrorists are along with many Muslims who follow strict sharia laws that are anti-Christian!

    April 21, 2009 at 11:33 am |