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UN Meetings Draw Demonstrators on Wide Range of Causes


As world leaders meet at the U.N. General Assembly, New York is also playing host to scores of demonstrations - one of which even included a candidate for president of the U.N. General Assembly.

It's a scene repeated every September, when the United Nations General Assembly opens. Demonstrators rally in the blocks around the U.N., and in front of the nearby Waldorf Astoria hotel, where Tibetans protested the arrival of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao.

In the plaza across from the U.N., supporters of China's democracy and human rights movement also rallied against Chinese leaders, calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to what they called land grabs and economic exploitation.

Protest leader Yang Jianli: "I think we will have impact, gradually. The impact may be very small, but it will accumulate over time. And we come here because our voice cannot be heard inside China."

Like last year, many demonstrations at this year's General Assembly are in protest of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Members of the New York Board of Rabbis - joined by some Christian supporters - briefly blocked morning traffic near the U.N. to draw attention to Iran's suspected nuclear capability and its threats toward Israel. "I want to prevent a second holocaust, and we are on the verge of a disaster that the world has not seen since the 1940s," one supporter said.

At another anti-Ahmadinejad rally, pro-democracy demonstrators dressed in prison garb and smeared fake blood on their faces and hands - in reference to Iran's executions of children and women by hanging and stoning.

A new cause this year was a rally to save the Himalayas from the effects of climate change. The message: the snow-capped peaks, the source of water for 1.5 billion people, are beginning to melt. "We need to save the Himalayas. How do we do that? We need to create awareness," said Shankar Prasad Sharma, Nepal's ambassador to the U.S.

Senior Nepalese diplomats attending the U.N.G.A. crossed the street to join the protest. Kul Chandra Gautam is Nepal's candidate for president of the U.N. General Assembly next year. "Of course, I came here to show my solidarity, because this is an issue of tremendous global importance. Mountains are melting. If they melt, it's going to cause disaster that will affect hundreds of millions of people."

The demonstrators included about thirty Nepalese mountaineers, some of whom danced to a song by Nepalese musician Prem Raja Mahat. Each has climbed at least once to the summit of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world - and according to the demonstrators, under threat of becoming bare rock.

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