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Iran's Ahmadinejad to Address UN General Assembly


Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, one day after his visit to Columbia University spurred protests and sharp remarks.

Mr. Ahmadinejad will join other world leaders as the General Assembly meets in New York City.

On Monday, the president of Columbia University told Mr. Ahmadinejad that he exhibits all the signs of a "petty and cruel dictator."

University President Lee Bollinger challenged Mr. Ahmadinejad to answer questions on Iran's nuclear program, and its alleged human rights abuses.

The Iranian leader expressed dismay at what he called Bollinger's "insults." He defended Iran's human rights record and denied his country is seeking nuclear weapons or supporting terrorists.

In Washington today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to tighten sanctions against Iran - in a rebuke to Mr. Ahmadinejad during his U.S. visit.

The House voted 397 to 16 for the sanctions bill which targets foreign companies that invest in Iran, particularly in the oil and gas sectors. The Senate must also approve the bill before it is sent to President Bush for his signature.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia sparked protests from rights groups, the media and politicians.

The Iranian leader also would not directly answer on whether he seeks the destruction of Israel. He said his solution was a referendum of the people in the disputed areas.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said he thought Columbia University made a mistake allowing Mr. Ahmadinejad to speak. Mr. Peres said the Iranian leader was telling lies.

Critics say Columbia University should not have given the Iranian leader a platform to speak. Bollinger said it was part of the American tradition of freedom of speech.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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