NEW YORK (JTA) — Delegates to a United Nations conference on nuclear proliferation walked out as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began his speech, which attacked the United States and Israel.
The delegates from the United States, Britain, France, Hungary, New Zealand and the Netherlands left the room at the start of the Iranian president’s address Monday.
Ahmadinejad used his opening speech at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference to parry attacks from an increasingly frustrated international community and to highlight what he deemed the hypocrisy of the United States and Israel.
Denying that his country seeks nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad told U.N. delegates that possessing such weapons is both “disgusting and shameful.”
“The United States has threatened to use nuclear weapons against other countries, including my country,” he said. “The Zionist regime, too, continuously threatens other Middle Eastern countries.”
Ahmadinejad also indicted the United Nations for its futility in establishing lasting security against nuclear arms, accusing theh world body of a double standard toward countries seeking nuclear energy and first-world nuclear powers.
Israel did not participate in the conference; Israel is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
As the Iranian president delivered his speech, several protests took place outside the U.N.’s New York headquarters.
One protest featured several members of the U.S. Congress, New York state senators and Jewish leaders gathered across the street from the U.N. building to denounce Ahmadinejad’s presence at the conference, which U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called a “sham.”
Most of the speakers, including Gillibrand, and New York Reps. Anthony Weiner, Carolyn Maloney, and Jerrold Nadler, focused on the need for tougher sanctions against Iran and expressed outrage at companies that do business with both the United States and Iran. In March, an investigation by The New York Times identified 74 companies that had dealings with the U.S. government and Iran.
“Today we renew our call to the companies and say when they do business with Iran, they fund its nuclear development,” Gillibrand said, adding that she is pressing for Senate hearings to investigate the issue.
Gillibrand later told reporters that she was confident that the Congress would reconcile its disagreements and approve stronger sanctions against Iran in the coming weeks.