Walkout as Ahmadinejad takes aim at capitalism

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country was ready to shake all hands “that are honestly extended to us” – but diplomats walked out during other remarks in his speech to the UN General Assembly.

Mr Ahmadinejad announced Iran’s commitment to participate in building durable peace and security worldwide for all nations while defending the country’s legitimate and legal rights.

This appeared to be a reference to Iran’s nuclear programme, which was not mentioned in his speech.

Mr Ahmadinejad portrayed Iran as a defender of poor developing countries, lashing out at unbridled capitalism which he said has reached the end of the road and will suffer the same fate as Marxism.

The US delegation walked out.

Mr Ahmadinejad made only passing reference to the nuclear issue, a call for global nuclear disarmament.

Moments before he spoke, foreign ministers of six global powers told reporters on the sidelines of the General Assembly that they expect Iran to come clean about its nuclear programme.

Tougher sanctions against Iran are being considered if talks between the powers and Iran on the issue, set for October 1, don’t yield results.

At times, Mr Ahmadinejad struck a softer tone, declaring that Tehran was “prepared to warmly shake all those hands which are honestly extended to us.”

He peppered his speech with religious references, invoking the prophets of Judaism and Christianity, as well as Islam.

Yet most of the speech focused on his usual themes – scathing verbal attacks on archenemy Israel and the West.

He assailed Israel for what he said was a “barbaric” attack on the Gaza Strip last winter. He also accused the West of hypocrisy, saying it preached democracy, but violated its fundental principles.

Turning to domestic affairs, Mr Ahmadinejad insisted he won a “large majority” in June elections. Pro-reform opposition politicians have alleged electoral fraud, and Mr Ahmadinejad has been at the centre of political turmoil since then.

In earlier speeches to the General Assembly, US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and others had taken Iran to task for its nuclear ambitions.

The US and its allies believe Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons, despite Tehran’s assertion that it is only building a peaceful nuclear energy programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has not been forthcoming about its nuclear programme, and the UN Security Council has imposed sanctions against Iran three times since 2006 for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.

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