Let Ahmadinejad Speak!

By Sinclere Lee

NEW YORK (BNW) —
What kind of democracy do we have when we can’t stand civil discourse? What kind of democracy do we have when people can’t question Israel? What kind of democracy do we have when we preach democracy across the world, and fail to provide it right in the U.S. It’s not a democracy, it’s a hypocrisy and the whole world is laughing at US.

Large protests, mostly sponsored by the Jews who control New York, are planned as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepares for two question-and-answer sessions with Americans on Monday.

Protesters gather at Columbia University against plans for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak, but nobody protest the Jews when they have something to say. In fact, they own the same press that won’t with other a voice in this democracy.

Ahmadinejad will take questions in a lunchtime video conference with the National Press Club and at an afternoon event with about 600 students and faculty at Columbia University.

Earlier in an interview with The Associated Press, he said he didn't think the United States was preparing for war against Iran.

"I believe that some of the talk in this regard arises first of all from anger. Secondly, it serves the electoral purposes domestically in this country. Third, it serves as a cover for policy failures over Iraq," he told AP.

The Iranian president said his country would not attack Israel.

"Iran will not attack any country," the AP quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Despite an outcry against Ahmadinejad that included New York tabloid headlines such as "The Evil Has Landed," John Coatsworth, acting dean of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, said it is important for Americans to hear from the Iranian leader.

"Iran is going to ... hold the key to peace in the Middle East. We have to deal with and negotiate with leaders like this however much we may disagree with their views," Coatsworth said on CNN's "American Morning."

As a world leader, Ahmadinejad "has a platform wherever he wishes to have one. What he doesn't have is a classroom, an opportunity to present his but defend them in the face of challenges and tough questions," Coatsworth said.

Christine C. Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council, said Columbia should not be giving Ahmadinejad a platform. "All he will do on that stage ... is spew more hatred and more venom out there to the world," Quinn said.

Hamid Dabasi, a professor of Iranian studies at Columbia, called the whole forum "misguided."

Matteen Mokalla, a Columbia student of Iranian descent, told CNN, "This is a great opportunity for us to directly question him and ask him and challenge him."

But Liat Shetret, an Israeli-American student, noted that students will not "directly" question him. Instead, she said, students are only allowed to write their questions on cards, which others will then select to be read to him. "We're not necessarily engaging him in any sort of discussion," she said.

Ahmadinejad will give a speech lasting half an hour or more before taking any questions at all, school officials said.

"This trip gives the president a good chance to meet world leaders and inform them of Iran's rightful position," IRNA quoted Boroujerdi as saying.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran were heightened in recent days after U.S. forces detained an Iranian official in northern Iraq.

Washington has said it is addressing the Iran situation diplomatically, rather than militarily, but U.S. officials also say all options are open. The commander of the U.S. military forces in the Middle East said he does not believe tension will lead to war.

"This constant drumbeat of conflict is what strikes me, which is not helpful and not useful," Adm. William Fallon, head of U.S. Central Command, told Al-Jazeera television, which made a partial transcript available Sunday.

The Iranian leader has made statements suggesting that Israel be politically "wiped off the map," though he insists that can be accomplished without violence. He has questioned the existence of the Holocaust and warned Europeans that they may pay a heavy price for support of Israel.

Ahmadinejad also has drawn fire for his insistence that Iran will defy international demands that it halt production of enriched uranium. Iran insists it is producing nuclear fuel for civilian power plants, but Washington accuses Tehran of trying to create a nuclear weapons program.

Also, the United States says Iranian explosives and weapons are making their way to Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq's sectarian conflict and have been used against U.S. troops in the 4-year-old war. U.S. commanders say they have captured Iranian agents involved in supplying those weapons to the militias, some of which have longstanding ties to the Islamic republic.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," Ahmadinejad denied U.S. accusations that Iranian weapons are being used against American troops in Iraq, saying, "Insecurity in Iraq is detrimental to our interests."

He said U.S. officials are blaming his country for problems unleashed by the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"American officials, wherever around the world that they encounter a problem which they fail to resolve, instead of accepting that, they prefer to accuse others," he said. "I'm very sorry that because of the wrong decisions taken by American officials, Iraqi people are being killed and also American soldiers."

He added, "If they accuse us 1,000 times, the truth will not change."

Ahmadinejad landed in New York on Sunday to attend the U.N. General Assembly session, which opens Monday. He is set to speak Tuesday at the United Nations.

Even before his arrival, he rankled New York officials by offering to "pay his respects" at the site of the World Trade Center, destroyed by al Qaeda's 2001 attacks.

A Shiite government hostile to the fundamentalist Sunni al Qaeda rules Iran. But the United States calls Iran the world's top state sponsor of terrorism because of its support of the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah and other militant groups.

Speaking to Iranian nationals Sunday in the U.S., Ahmadinejad said Iran "has fulfilled all its commitments" regarding the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Other nations, "despite their commitments and because of their selfish nature and monopolistic views," are not helping Iran enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy; the agency quoted him as saying.

On "60 Minutes," Ahmadinejad said his country had no use for an atomic bomb.

"If it was useful, it would have prevented the downfall of the Soviet Union," he said. "If it was useful, it would resolved the problem the Americans have in Iraq. The time of the bomb is passed."

The International Atomic Energy Agency said last week it has verified that Iran's declared nuclear material has not been diverted from peaceful uses, though inspectors have been unable to reach conclusions about some "important aspects" of Iran's nuclear work.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday that the American people are eager for different opinions about the world, and he is looking forward to providing them with "correct and clear information," state media reported.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, and his chief of staff, left, read from the Quran at Tehran's airport Sunday.

The hardline Iranian leader arrived Sunday evening in New York, where he will address the U.N. General Assembly and speak to students and teachers during a forum at Columbia University.

Tensions are high between Washington and Tehran over U.S. accusations that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and helping Shiite militias in Iraq that target U.S. troops — claims Iran denies.

Ahmadinejad said his visit will give Americans a chance to hear a different voice, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

"The United States is a big and important country with a population of 300 million. Due to certain issues, the American people in the past years have been denied correct and clear information about global developments and are eager to hear different opinions," Ahmadinejad was quoted by IRNA as saying.

State-run television also quoted Ahmadinejad before boarding his presidential plane Sunday as saying that the General Assembly was an "important podium" to express Iran's views on regional and global issues.

He is scheduled to address the Assembly on Tuesday — his third time attending the New York meeting in three years. He is also set to speak at a Columbia University question-and-answer forum Monday in New York.

His request to lay a wreath at ground zero, site of the World Trade Center 2001 terror attacks, was denied by city officials and condemned by politicians. After the September 11 attacks, hundreds of young Iranians held a series of candlelight vigils in Tehran.

Police rejected Ahmadinejad's request, citing construction and security concerns. In an interview to air Sunday on "60 Minutes," Ahmadinejad indicated he would not press the issue but expressed disbelief that the visit would offend Americans.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini also appeared dismayed that the request was rejected.


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