WORLD -- September 22, 2011 at 10:14 AM EDT
Diplomats Walk Out As Ahmadinejad Addresses U.N. General Assembly
Updated 5 p.m. ET:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took to the podium at the U.N. General Assembly Thursday - one day after American hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were released from prison after being held for two years on charges of spying - to deliver a speech strongly condemning the United States for events from slavery and Vietnam to Sept. 11 and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Ahmadinejad blasted the United States for using the "mysterious September 11th incident" as a pretext to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.
As he has in previous years, Ahmadinejad questioned the Holocaust and said "arrogant powers" impose sanctions or threaten military action on those who question it. He said the U.S. and its allies in Europe "view Zionism as a sacred notion and ideology" and have used the Holocaust as an "excuse to pay ransom or fine to Zionists."
Admadinejad's address comes one day after after President Obama said the United States would vote against the Palestinians' application for full U.N. membership in favor of further peace process negotiations. President Ahmadinejad is one of the world leaders who support the Palestinians' bid. He has called Israel an "occupying and illegal government."
Ahmadinejad also said the United States was to blame for spurring the global financial crisis and a slew of conflicts, past and present, and for propping up dictatorial regimes.
In contrast, Iran is "a new model for life to the world," he said.
"Our views on Iran's behavior and its vile mistreatment of its own citizens are well known," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters afterward. "I find it rich that the Iranian president would have such criticism. Our position on that regime's treatment of its own people is well known."
Diplomats from more than a dozen countries, including the United States and France, walked out during the speech.
The speech is more for flash than substance, according to Suzanne Maloney, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. "He never comes to send signals or provide insight into his thought process or the strategic interests of the Islamic Republic. This is a dog and pony show for him."
Ahmadinejad's addresses in Iran are usually more substantive, and interesting, because they are in front of a domestic audience, she added.
In contrast to his anti-U.S. rhetoric was the release of the two American hikers, which many anticipated would occur before his visit to the United States, said Maloney. While the move might not have an impact in his dealings with other countries, it could signal his interest in staying involved in negotiations in general -- with the economic and political benefits they might provide, she said.
Photo of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.