Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Iran's Leader Says U.N. Controlled by U.S., Israel

Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times:
Iran's president told the United Nations on Tuesday that the organization had become a tool used by the world's powerful to oppress the weak, and called for a radical overhaul.

Lashing out at the United States and Israel, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly that, with U.N. help, some nations were "fast expanding their domination" and wealth.

"Some seek to rule the world relying on weapons and threats, while others live in perpetual insecurity and danger," said Ahmadinejad, whose country faces international pressure to abandon its nuclear ambitions. READ MORE

He said the displacement of Palestinians was "a great tragedy with hardly a precedent in history," and accused Israel of cruelly oppressing its neighbors.

Ahmadinejad said the world's weaker countries should have an international forum to correct injustice. But he said that was not possible because dominant nations controlled the U.N.'s key organs.

He said U.N. organizations could not call the United States or Britain, permanent members of the Security Council, to account for their actions.

"Can a council of which they are a privileged member take them into account?" he asked. "Has this ever happened? In fact, we have repeatedly seen the reverse."

The Iranian president said groups such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Nonaligned Movement should be given permanent memberships and veto powers.

He said that because of the domination of the United States and Israel, the U.N. was slow to call for a halt in fighting this summer between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon that killed hundreds of Lebanese civilians.

He repeatedly criticized the United States for its conduct in Iraq.

Ahmadinejad said some powerful nations "occupy the homelands of others thousands of kilometers from their borders, interfere in their affairs and control their oil and other resources," while others are "bombed daily in their own homes, their children murdered in the streets … and their homes are reduced to rubble."

Israel, he said, "has been a constant source of threat and insecurity … waging war and spilling blood and impeding the progress" of neighboring countries.

Ahmadinejad has become the most strident critic of the United States and Israel among leaders of Islamic nations.

His appearance at the U.N. was protested by Jewish groups.

His comments came hours after President Bush criticized the Iranian leadership in an address to the General Assembly.

Bush said Americans hoped for a bright future for Iranians but warned that "the greatest obstacle to this future is that your ruler has chosen to deny your liberty and to use your nation's resources to fund terrorism and fuel extremism and pursue nuclear weapons."

Ahmadinejad's comments came as U.S. and French officials scrambled to smooth over differences on the Iranian nuclear issue.

In an interview with a French radio station, French President Jacques Chirac said he thought the allied powers could start negotiating with Iran without it having to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities.

The statement, which appeared to contradict previous European and U.S. positions, surprised and exasperated U.S. officials.

After hearing American complaints, Chirac declared publicly that the U.S. and French positions were consistent.

Chirac said before a meeting with Bush that the two leaders "again see eye to eye on this point. I totally agree with President Bush."

Later, at a news conference, Chirac said he thought a way could be found to satisfy both the U.S. insistence that Iran halt enrichment before negotiations began, and Tehran's requirement that talks start first.

He said representatives of three European powers, Britain, France and Germany, as well as Russia and China, could hold talks to set an agenda for the meetings, then start negotiations with the Iranians. Once the talks were underway, the Iranians could halt enrichment and the U.S. could join the negotiations.

Bush, who seemed uncomfortable appearing with Chirac, said the Iranians needed to understand that the U.S. and France shared the same objective.

"The EU-3 will continue to dialogue with the Iranians to get them to the table so that they will suspend — verifiably suspend — their enrichment activities, in which case the United States will come to the table," Bush said. "And we believe time is of the essence."