Published September 26, 2012
NEW YORK – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's final address to the United Nations General Assembly featured the same ramblings about Zionism and imperialists that have prompted diplomats to walk out in the past, but this time, the U.S., Israel and other western delegations didn't even bother attending.
The long-winded firebrand, whose second and final term ends next summer, began by praising his own country’s “morality” and “compassion,” and then launched into a 20-minute diatribe in which he blasted Israel for warning Iran to stop developing nuclear weapons.
"The continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality," said Ahmadinejad, who in the past has ridiculed the Holocaust and just days earlier called for the "elimination" of Israel.
Ahmadinejad also blasted the world’s “abysmal” current state and called for a new order that would be absent the "hegemony of arrogance."
“The current abysmal situation of the world and the bitter incidents of history are due mainly to the wrong management of the world and the self-proclaimed centers of power who have entrusted themselves to the devil,” Ahmadinejad said.
The speech lacked the fire of Ahmadinejad's past addresses and featured several declarations of Iran's greatness as well as reflections on his time in office.
U.S. and Israeli diplomats skipped the speech, which came on Yom Kippur, and Great Britain sent only a "low level" presence, according to the Telegraph.
“Over the past couple of days, we've seen Mr. Ahmadinejad once again use his trip to the UN not to address the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people but to instead spout paranoid theories and repulsive slurs against Israel,” read a statement issued Wednesday by Erin Pelton, a spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. “It's particularly unfortunate that Mr. Ahmadinejad will have the platform of the UN General Assembly on Yom Kippur, which is why the United States has decided not to attend.”
Ahmadinejad seemed to acknowledge the absent Western leaders, insisting that the United Nations belongs to “all nations” and implying the boycott was tantamount to discrimination against Iran.
“Thus, the existence of discrimination amongst the member is a great insult to all,” he said. “The existence of discrimination and monopoly in the United Nations is in no way acceptable.”
In past speeches to the General Assembly, he has questioned Arab involvement in the Sept. 11 terror attacks and claimed the Holocaust was an "excuse to pay ransom to Zionists." His speech on Wednesday came amid crippling sanctions leveled against Iran by the West because of Tehran’s refusal to allow weapons inspectors to examine nuclear facilities.
Israel believes Iran is close to attaining the ability to strike her with nuclear warheads and has called for the U.S. to apply more pressure on Iran even as it openly contemplates a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. President Obama on Tuesday told the assembly that while Washington remains committed to a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program, the United States will do “what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining” a nuclear weapon.
Also Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Iran must prove the "solely peaceful intent of its program."
Ahmadinejad told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the international furor over Iran's nuclear enrichment program is a pretext for the West to dominate his country.
"Everyone is aware the nuclear issue is the imposition of the will of the United States," he said. "I see the nuclear issue as a non-issue. It has become a form of one-upmanship."
Ahmadinejad said he favored additional dialogue, despite stalled negotiations with world powers after three rounds of meetings since April. He said some world leaders have suggested to him that Iran would be better off holding nuclear talks only with the United States.
"Of course I am not dismissing such talks," he said when asked if he were open to discussions with the winner of the American presidential election.
Since his arrival in New York, Ahmadinejad has given several interviews in which he has called for the “elimination” of Israel, denied Iranian involvement in attacks on Israelis around the world and disputed U.S. allegations Tehran was behind a foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States last year. He also called for a group of nations to mediate the civil war in Syria, even as Tehran has been accused of helping to arm Syrian President Bashar Assad’s bloody crackdown.
Ahmadinejad told The Associated Press that he had no knowledge of the whereabouts of Robert Levinson, a private investigator and former FBI agent who vanished in Iran five years ago. He said he directed Iranian intelligence services two years ago to work with their counterparts in the U.S. to locate him.
"And if any help there is that I can bring to bear, I would be happy to do so," Ahmadinejad said.
He also claimed never to have heard of Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who is imprisoned on espionage charges in Iran. Hekmati was arrested while visiting his grandmother in Iran in August 2011, and his family has been using Ahmadinejad's visit to New York to plead for his release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.