UNITED NATIONS — American diplomats led a walkout at the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday as Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a sweeping attack on the United States and major West European nations, calling them "arrogant powers" ruled by greed and eager for military adventurism.
The two U.S. diplomats, who specialize in the Middle East, were followed out of the chamber by diplomats from more than 30 countries. They included the 27 European Union members, Australia, New Zealand, Somalia, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and Macedonia, a U.N. diplomat said.
Ahmadinejad's speech contrasted what he called the poverty and unhappiness in most countries against the riches and power of the United States and unnamed European nations that he accused of perpetuating wars, causing the current global economic crisis and infringing on "the rights and sovereignty of nations."
He attacked the United States and European colonial powers for abducting tens of millions of Africans and making them slaves, for their readiness "to drop thousands of bombs on other countries," and for dominating the U.N. Security Council. He singled out the United States for using a nuclear bomb against Japan in World War II and imposing and supporting military dictatorships and totalitarian regimes in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Ahmadinejad also suggested that the U.S. military's killing of Osama bin Laden and the disposal of his body at sea were part of a dark conspiracy to conceal the real perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks. Of 9/11, he said that, as an engineer, it would have been impossible for two jetliners to bring down the towers simply by hitting them. He says some kind of planned explosion must have taken place.
Meanwhile, minutes before Ahmadinejad addressed the General Assembly, about 1,000 Iranian-Americans staged a protest rally in nearby Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. Children stomped on a poster of Ahmadinejad among banners that covered the pavement. "Down With the Islamic Republic of Iran," read one.
John Bolton, who served as U.N. ambassador during George W. Bush's presidency, told the Associated Press that the United States had failed to stop Iran from torturing and killing its people. "We expect that our commitment to the people of Iran is going to be upheld," he said. "Right now, the Obama administration is doing almost nothing." He said this week's release of two American hikers held for years by Iran was what he called "just Broadway theater."