During Iranian President Ahmadinejad‘s address to the Durban Review Conference, representatives of the European Union and other delegations admirably left the chamber in protest when he accused Western countries of “resorting to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of protecting Jews” following World War II.
As he began to talk, a man in a clown wig ran through the hall, calling out the Iranian President as a racist. Ahmadinejad asked the guests to “forgive these ignorant people.”
As expected, Ahmadinejad focused his attacks on the West and Israel. He condemned the “cruel and racist regime in Palestine,” complaining that the U.N. Security Council has enabled its survival over the last sixty years. “The word Zionism personifies racism,” he said. “Efforts must be made to silence the will of Zionists and their supporters.”
Ahmadinejad then deplored “world powers” who “mobilize all their resources, including their economic and political resources and the world media, to render support to the vain Zionist regime.” He continued, “Governments must be encouraged and supported in their fights aimed to eradicated this barbaric racism.” These remarks were met with applause from the audience.
Ahmadinejad also blasted the U.S. in particular, suggesting that racism is the root cause of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and support of the “usurper Zionist regime.”
He blamed the global economic crisis on the U.S. and decried market economies in general, which he claimed deny opportunities for other economies in the world. He encouraged reform of the world financial institutions and the Security Council.
The following speech by the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store vigorously challenged Ahmadinejad, calling him “the odd man out to hijack the conference.”
“We will not surrender the floor of the United Nations to extremism,” Gahr Store said.
Referring to the draft Durban II text, the minister stated, “Freedom of expression, yes, but our document is also clear on incitement of hatred and this is what I heard in the President’s speech — incitement to hatred.”
While saying Norway could accept the text as is, he criticized it for inadequately addressing the Holocaust, and said that the conference alone will not solve the problem of racism.
UPDATE: In its right of reply, Iran condemned the statement of Norway, along with those of Argentina, Sweden, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. “We strongly reject the unwarranted and unsubstantiated references made in those statements and consider them as malicious, unacceptable and out of order” the representative said. “It is regrettable that the right of freedom of expression is so wrongly and narrowly defined by some.”
The delegate expressed his wish that the Norwegian foreign minister would have heard the applause given the President of Iran by so many delegations in participation. He said the President should be allowed to strongly condemn the “mass killing of innocent people.”
Moreover, the delegate deplored the remarks by “certain high ranking officials of the United Nations,” including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He said they should uphold the “principle of impartiality” and “refrain from making judgmental remarks.”