NEW YORK – Hundreds gathered Tuesday in a plaza outside the United Nations to protest what they said was Iran's continued support of terrorism, its poor record on human rights and its deceptive tactics in nuclear negotiations as the country's president delivered remarks to world leaders.
Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle told those gathered in the rain at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza amid tight security that tens of thousands of people have been jailed under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the Iranian government should be overthrown.
"That should be the stated policy of the United States," said Bolton, who was the top U.S. diplomat to the United Nations from 2005-2006 under President George W. Bush.
In his wide-ranging speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Rouhani warned that Islamic terrorists were creating chaos in the Mideast to destroy civilization and generate anti-Muslim hatred, saying they wanted to create "a fertile ground for further intervention of foreign forces in our region."
He also said a nuclear agreement was possible before the November deadline if the West wants a deal and shows flexibility.
Hasan Alsawaf, a Rhode Island dentist who emigrated from Syria two decades ago, said at the protest that the Iranian regime was responsible for much of the chaos in the Middle East.
"The cycle of horror and terror that started with the Iranian regime to the Syrian regime and ISIS needs to be dismantled," Alswaf said, using an alternate name for the Islamic State group.
Former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson and Robert F. Kennedy's daughter Kerry Kennedy also attended. Wearing yellow ponchos, the protesters chanted, a drum line performed and Iranian pop music played.
Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi was scheduled to deliver a speech via satellite, but bad weather disrupted the link-up. Instead, a speaker read her prepared remarks to the crowd. People chanted the National Council of Resistance head's name several times throughout the protest. Some held cutout letters spelling her name.
A reformist who took office in August 2013, Rouhani spoke by telephone last year with President Barack Obama, the first direct conversation between leaders of the two countries since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But the relationship has been fraught with tension over economic sanctions, nuclear negotiations and the proliferation of terrorist groups such as the violent Islamic State extremists and conflict in the region.