(CNSNews.com) – Ahead of his eighth and final annual address to the United Nations this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday touched on themes likely to feature in the speech – a challenge to Israel’s legitimacy, criticism of the West for not cracking down on anti-Islam speech, and an implied reference to Holocaust revisionism.
The Iranian leader was speaking at the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) during a session on the rule of law, one day after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The U.N. said that Ban, during that meeting, “drew attention to the potentially harmful consequences of inflammatory rhetoric, counter-rhetoric and threats from various countries in the Middle East.”
Incendiary rhetoric has characterized Ahmadinejad’s once-a-year visit to New York, and Monday’s remarks were true to past form.
He accused unnamed Security Council members of disregarding the nuclear arsenal of a “fake regime” while impeding the nuclear progress of others – a reference to Israel and Iran, respectively.
In a reference to the current furor over insulting depictions of Mohammed, Ahmadinejad said “divine prophets” and religions should be “protected by law” in all societies, in order for conflict to be avoided.
He accused Western governments of misusing freedom of expression to justify silence about offenses to “divine prophets.”
Slamming what he said were double standards, he continued, “They support these offenders [who] infringe upon the freedoms of others and allow sacrilege … while they criminalize investigation into a historical issue and jail researchers.”
The “historical issue” Ahmadinejad frequently alludes to is the Holocaust. He has called the massacre of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis a “myth” and a “pretext” for the establishment of the Jewish state.
Ahmadinejad also broached another pet subject – the “bullying powers” in the Security Council. Laws breeding discrimination – such as the veto power enjoyed by council’s the five permanent members – were illegitimate, he declared, “and that is why that body has failed to establish justice and ensure sustainable peace and security in the world.”
He called for the Security Council to be completely reformed, and for the revitalization of the General Assembly as the “highest organ of the United Nations.”
The comments prompted a walkout by Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, who in a statement later said, “Ahmadinejad showed again that he not only threatens the future of the Jewish people, he seeks to erase our past.”
“Three thousand years of Jewish history illustrate the clear danger of ignoring fanatics like Iran’s president, especially as he inches closer to acquiring nuclear weapons.”
Ahmadinejad has attended and addressed the September session every year since taking office in 2005, returning time and again to provocative subjects ranging from Holocaust denial to 9/11 conspiracies. Every year Western representatives have walked out during his speech, although most delegations have not, and his remarks have even drawn applause.
Ahmadinejad is due to address the full UNGA on Wednesday, his last opportunity on the world stage before his second and final term ends next year.
In a letter Friday to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Canadian lawmaker and former justice minister Irwin Cotler urged her to bar Ahmadinejad from entering the United States.
“While he is not the first war criminal to seek the world stage and will not be the last, the U.S. has the power to refuse him a visa to set foot on American soil,” he wrote. Cotler is co-chairman of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran.
Under the 1947 United Nations Headquarters Act, foreign delegates are permitted unimpeded access to a demarcated “headquarters district” in New York City.
In 1988, however, the Reagan administration denied PLO chairman Yasser Arafat a visa to attend the UNGA, citing “associations with terrorism.” (The UNGA responded by voting to hold a special session in Geneva, which Arafat addressed.)
In his letter Cotler cited the Arafat precedent as well as the U.S.’s 1987 refusal to issue a visa to former U.N. secretary-general Kurt Waldheim over his Nazi past.
“These precedents surely mandate that President Ahmadinejad should be in the docket of the accused in some international tribunal rather than given a visa to attend the U.N.”
Cotler sent a separate letter to Ban, asking him to prevent Ahmadinejad from addressing the UNGA.
“Given President Ahmadinejad’s hateful and incendiary incitement, flagrant disregard for principles of international law, massive repression of domestic human rights, and complicity with international terrorism, providing him with an opportunity – indeed privilege – to speak to the community of nations is simply as unacceptable as it is unworthy of the United Nations,” he wrote.