Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad triggered a walkout of U.S. and other delegates when he suggested in a U.N. General Assembly speech Thursday that the United States government staged the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Iranian leader said his country's nuclear activities are in conformance with international accords.
President Barack Obama had sounded a conciliatory theme toward Iran in a General Assembly speech earlier in the day, saying major powers still want dialogue with Tehran over its nuclear program.
But the Iranian leader was defiant in a policy address only a few hours later. He suggested his country was being bullied by the U.N. Security Council over the nuclear issue, and claimed that a majority of Americans believe their government was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Mr. Ahmadinejad said the notion that al-Qaida staged the attacks on New York and Washington was only one three competing theories about what happened in 2001.
"Second: that some segments orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order to save the Zionist regime," said President Ahmadinejad. "The majority of the American people as well as most nations and politicians around the world agree with this view. Third: it was carried out by a terrorist group but that the American government supported and took advantage of the situation."
The Iranian leader suggested the United Nations should conduct an independent probe of the 2001 events, so that in his words, in the future expressing views about it is not forbidden.
The mid-level U.S. diplomats in the General Assembly hall for the speech walked out after the comments, as did delegates from several European countries.
A spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations said that instead of representing the aspirations and goodwill of the Iranian people, Mr. Ahmadinejad chose again to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that he said are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable.
In a speech otherwise dominated by religious themes and complaints about alleged big-power dominance of the U.N. system, the Iranian leader said his country is not avoiding talks about its nuclear program.
"Iran has always been ready for a dialogue based on respect and justice," said Mr. Ahmadinejad. "Secondly the methods based on disrespecting nations have long become ineffective. Those who have used intimidation and sanctions in response to the clear logic of the Iranian nation are in real terms destroying the remaining credibility of the Security Council and the trust of nations for this body."
Though the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly said Iran has failed to fully disclose its nuclear activities, Mr. Ahmadinejad said Tehran, which claims peaceful nuclear intentions, has observed IAEA regulations. But he said Iran has never submitted to illegally imposed pressures, nor will it ever do so.