Ahmadinejad Defends Iran's Seat on U.N. Women's Commission

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday appeared to defend his country's recent re-election to a seat on the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, arguing that Iranian women are "highly respected" in his country while 70 percent of European women are physically abused.

Speaking at a news conference in New York, Ahmadinejad said that a "woman is the symbol of beauty of God" in his country while there is "no dignity left for women in Europe."

The Islamic nation's appointment to the 45-nation group came last week after the U.S. helped prevent Iran from gaining a seat on the Human Rights Council.

A week before Iran's re-election to the women's commission, one of its senior clerics declared that women who wear revealing clothing are to blame for earthquakes, a statement that created an international uproar.

"Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," said Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi.

That was followed by threats from Tehran's police chief that women who are tan will be arrested and imprisoned for violating the spirit of Islamic law.

The Commission on the Status of Women is supposed to conduct review of nations that violate women's rights, issue reports detailing their failings and monitor success in improving women's equality.

Yet critics of Iran's human rights record say the country has taken "every conceivable step" to deter women's equality.