Ahmadinejad speech against Israel sparks controversy at UN conference
A number of delegates walked out of a United Nations conference on racism on Monday when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a racist state, Reuters reported. The Iranian leader accused Israel of being the "most cruel and racist regime."
He pointed the finger at the United States, Europe and Israel and said they were destabilizing the entire world. Ahmadinejad added Israel was created on the "pretext of Jewish suffering" from World War II.
His words drew applause from some delegations that remained. However, a wigged protester shouting "Racist! racist!" threw a soft red object at Ahmadinejad, hitting the podium and interrupting his speech.
The United States and its major allies are boycotting the meeting in Geneva over concerns that it would be used as a platform for criticism of Israel.
In his opening speech Monday before thousands of ministers, diplomats and dignitaries at the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sought to show respect for Israel and Muslim countries alike. He said racism "may be institutionalized, as the Holocaust will always remind us," and can also manifest itself more generally, "as anti-Semitism, for example, or the newer Islamophobia."
Ban condemned Holocaust denial and said "ignoring the historical fact of those terrible events increases the risk they will be repeated."