The United States and President Bush have come in for harsh criticism during a day of sharply-worded speeches at the annual U.N. General Assembly debate. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez got personal, calling Mr. Bush "the devil himself."
Chavez burnished his reputation as one of Washington's severest populist critics Wednesday. To rousing applause in the U.N. General Assembly hall, he described the United States as a "hegemonistic power" intent on world domination, and a "threat to the survival of the human race".
Mr. Chavez had even stronger words for President Bush. The leftist leader called the president "the devil", and said Mr. Bush had left a smell of sulfur in the chamber from his appearance the previous day.
"Yesterday, the devil came here, right here, and it smells of sulfur still today," said Hugo Chavez. "Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here talking as if he owned the world."
There were no senior U.S. officials in the chamber at the time, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later told reporters she would not dignify Chavez's comments with a reply. Washington's combative U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, however, described the Venezualan's speech as a "comic strip approach to international affairs".
News agencies reported that Chavez also criticized Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday, saying he found the pontiff's recent remarks about Islam and holy war "worrisome".
Cuba's delegate at the Assembly debate, Esteban Lazo Hernandez echoed many of Chavez's criticisms of the United States. Lazo described the U.S. embargo of his country as a 'criminal policy'.
"The Bush administration has stepped up its brutally hostile methods against Cuba," said Esteban Lazo Hernandez. "With new economic sanctions that further intensify what is already the longest blockade human history has known."
The annual assembly debate also provided a forum for a spat between Asian neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Opening Wednesday's debate, Afghan President Hamid Karzai decried the current surge of violence in his country which he said is the worst since U.S. forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001. He did not mention Pakistan by name, but said outsiders are responsible.
"We must look beyond Afghanistan to the sources of terrorism," said Hamid Karzai. "We must destroy terrorist sanctuaries beyond Afghanistan, dismantle the elaborate networks in the region that recruit, indoctrinate, train, finance arm and deploy terrorists."
A short time later, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf rejected Karzai's charge. Speaking to a U.N. news conference, Musharraf said Pakistan is doing more than Afghanistan to fight terrorists in the rugged border region. He challenged Karzai to take action against Taliban commander Mullah Omar, whom he said is in southern Afghanistan.
"Instead of this blame game that goes on, they must realize what is the environment, he must realize what is the correct environment, and take action accordingly in Afghanistan," said Pervez Musharraf. "The problem lies in Afghanistan and that is creating problems in Pakistan."
The commander of U.S. forces in the region, General John Abizaid, expressed concern this week about renewed Taliban military activity along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.
The General Assembly debate Wednesday also included addresses by the leaders of Italy, Chile, Montenegro and Qatar, as well as Israel's foreign minister. Thursday's schedule includes the leaders of Lebanon, Serbia and Colombia, along with senior officials from Russia, Japan and South Korea.