Columbia University Students May Dine With Ahmadinejad

A group of Columbia University students may be attending a private dinner with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will be in New York City in September for the United Nations General Assembly, the Columbia Spectator reports.

Fifteen members of the Columbia International Relations Council and Association (CIRCA) were invited to the Sept. 21 event in Manhattan, according to the school newspaper. The meeting would reportedly allow for the students to dine and speak with Ahmadinejad.

Columbia President Lee Bollinger introduced the Iranian leader as "a petty and cruel dictator" when he spoke on campus in 2007. At the same event, Ahmadinejad lambasted Bollinger for what he called the "insults" and "unfriendly treatment" he endured from his host.

One of the group's vice presidents, who declined to be identified, told in an email on Tuesday that he could not comment "unless/until the event happens."

"Doing so beforehand may jeopardize our participation in the event," the message read.

CIRCA Vice President Tim Chan told the newspaper that the group was "really enthusiastic" when they were informed over the summer of the possible chance to have dinner with Ahmadinejad. Chan reportedly said he had not heard any concerns from the group, adding that "they're thrilled to have this opportunity." Chan, however, stressed the meeting is still tentative, according to the newspaper.

The controversial Iranian leader has called for the destruction of Israel and questioned whether the Holocaust ever happened. On Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Ahmadinejad said the United States planned the attack as an excuse to launch wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Columbia University and Bollinger were criticized for hosting Ahmadinejad at the 2007 forum, where the Iranian president again cast doubt on the Holocaust and questioned whether Al Qaeda was to blame for the 9/11 attacks. He also dismissed accusations that Tehran executed homosexuals, saying there were no gay people in his country.

Bollinger defended his decision to invite Ahmadinejad to campus in 2007, saying in a statement "Columbia, as a community dedicated to learning and scholarship, is committed to confronting ideas."

Bollinger was not immediately available for comment when contacted Tuesday by's Cristina Corbin and Newscore contributed to this report.