Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad continues to insist the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks may have been staged as a pretext to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. He made the charge again Friday at a news conference in New York.
Police moved metal barricades to cordon off the Warwick Hotel in mid-town Manhattan, the venue of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's news conference. More than two dozen local uniformed police officers along with Iranian and American plainclothes security personnel rerouted pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
During the restricted news conference, distributed by The Associated Press, Mr. Ahmadinijad reiterated a theory that the U.S. government staged the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Speaking through an interpreter, Mr. Ahmadinijad said he makes no judgment about the validity of the theory; only that it should be investigated. "An event occurred, and under the pretext of that event, two countries were invaded and up to now, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed as a result," he said.
Similar remarks Thursday during Mr. Ahmadinijad's speech to the U.N. General Assembly triggered a walkout of U.S. and other delegates.
VOA was not offered an invitation to attend the Ahmadinijad news conference. This reporter was declined entry at the door by an Iranian official, who said there was not enough space.
The bureau chief for Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency, Vladimir Kikilo, told VOA the event was indeed crowded. "I raised my hand and tried to ask him a question, because this is of interest for Russia to know the response of the Iranian side to the decision of our president Dmitri Medvedev not to go ahead with the sale of S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Iran," he said.
President Medvedev announced the decision Wednesday. The Kremlin leader also banned the sale of tanks, aircraft and sea vessels to Iran. The Russian move was in response to United Nations sanctions imposed in June for Iran's refusal to stop enriching uranium. Tehran has accused Moscow of wilting under international pressure and insists that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful.
There were no protesters outside the Warwick Hotel, but a group of curiosity-seekers stopped to see what the commotion was all about. Some thought President Barack Obama was having lunch there with the First Lady. When informed it was the president of Iran, a few left, one man cursed, but others remained - it was, after all, a somebody.
The Iranian leader left the hotel in a Cadillac limousine under New York City police escort, barricades were removed and the city went about its business.