Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday put himself forward as a champion for European separatists− from Wales to Spain’s Basque region− who he said had been ignored by the United Nations.
One day after sparking a walkout at the U.N. General Assembly over his rebuke of western nations, Ahmadinejad returned to the fray at his final press conference in New York, calling for a revolution in world governance because the western powers had shown they could not cope with “social crises, economic crises, financial crises.”
And adding charges of double standards to the debate, he compared the U.N. Security Council support given to Sudan this year to its silence over decades-old nationalist struggles in some Western European countries.
Highlighting the oil resources in Southern Sudan, Ahmadinejad said Western governments had “very easily and quite seriously supported the referendum that was aimed to divide Sudan, based on the premise that it was the right of the people.
“But for many, many years the people in Ireland they have been fighting, in Scotland they have been fighting, in Wales they have been fighting, Corsica in France, the Basque movement in Spain.”
But Ahmadinejad said neither Security Council nor western governments “have even allowed for the word ‘referendum’ to enter into this picture, so let us not even talk about agreement.
“They won’t even allow to utter the words referendum about these locations I have named. So this is clear tangible discrimination.”
While Basque militants have killed some people in recent years and Corsican nationalists still set off bombs, the Irish tensions have eased considerably in recent years and Scottish and Welsh tensions are mainly political.
Ahmadinejad said the U.N. “framework” can “no longer resolve world issues. It must be rebuilt, an open path must be opened for everyone’s participation with equal rights without exception and equal rights for all and mutual respect. Only then will we see that this world is truly beautiful.”
The Iranian leader said “management of world affairs needs reform and transparent responsible officials must replace the current irresponsible ones.”
Ahmadinejad also called on NATO naval forces to withdraw from the Gulf, calling them a threat to security.
“Any tool that can prevent clashes and potential conflict will be welcome. And I don't think there is any need for confrontation,” he said when asked about the potential for conflict in the Gulf
“But I think the best long term solution to this problem is for the foreign forces to leave the Persian Gulf. There is no need in the Persian Gulf for the presence of the NATO forces,” the Iranian leader told journalists.
The United States and European navies have stepped up their presence in the Gulf in recent years. The United States has a naval base in Bahrain and France opened a base in Abu Dhabi, within 250 kilometers (155 miles) of Iran's coastline, in 2009.
“The nations of the region are fully capable of establishing and providing their own security,” said Ahmadinejad.
“I tell you in no uncertain terms today that NATO −the Great Britain and American forces −if they leave the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, Iran will guarantee the route of energy trade in the region and the security in the region at large,” the president added.
During his visit to the U.N., Ahmadinejad made no mention of his disputed re-election in June 2009 when security forces systematically crushed opposition protests, the current internal political turmoil that has sharply diminished his power, or Iran's nuclear program which the U.S. and its allies believe is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
“While President Ahmadinejad is lecturing the world from the U.N. podium,” Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Philippe Bolopion said, “dissent is still being crushed ruthlessly in Iran and basic rights demanded by millions in the Arab world are brutally denied to Iranians who are demanding the same.”
“The world assembly should take with a grain of salt the remarks of a leader who said nothing about the public hanging yesterday of a 17-year-old in his own country,” he said.
In his speech, to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday, Ahmadinejad noted “the widespread awakening in Islamic lands ... (in) the pursuit of the realization of justice, freedom and the creation of a better tomorrow.”He said “our great nation stands ready to join hands with other nations to march on this beautiful path.”
The Iranian leader accused the U.S. of threatening to place sanctions on anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 attacks with sanctions and military action.
Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said: “Mr. Ahmadinejad had a chance to address his own people’s aspirations for freedom and dignity, but instead he again turned to abhorrent anti-Semitic slurs and despicable conspiracy theories.”