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Columbia denies any involvement with Ahmadinejad visit

(JTA) — Columbia University clarified that a Fox News report suggesting that Columbia’s president was involved in an event next week for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was false.

An Israeli group, the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center in Tel Aviv, had sent a letter to Columbia President Lee Bollinger condemning his alleged involvement with the event, saying the university could be liable to legal repercussions. JTA reported the sending of that letter.

The erroneous Fox News report was based on a story in the Columbia student newspaper that reported that members of Columbia’s International Relations Council and Association were invited via e-mail to a private meal Sept. 21 with Ahmadinejad. Some 15 students will attend the dinner, which is still tentative, according to the Columbia Spectator. The dinner is not a Columbia event.

Ahmadinejad is coming to New York to participate in the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly next week. His controversial address at Columbia in 2007 embroiled the campus in a debate over freedom of speech and academic freedom.

When Bollinger hosted Ahmadinejad at the university in 2007, he drew much criticism, even after he introduced the Iranian leader with a scathing rebuke of Iran’s human rights record.

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