Ahmadinejad speaks during the 67th United Nations General Assembly at UN
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during the 67th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2012. Photo by Reuters
Text size

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the podium on Wednesday at the UN General Assembly in New York, a day after U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States will "do what it must" to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Iran is under threat of military action from "uncivilized Zionists," a clear reference to Israel, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, saying that such threats from big powers are designed to force nations into submission.

Subscribe now to Haaretz digital editions and get 3 MONTHS FREE with the purchase of an annual subscription.

"Continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality," Ahmadinejad said in a 33-minute speech.

Taking place on the Jewish day of atonement Yom Kippur, it was the Iranian president's eighth appearance before the 193-nation assembly and his last before his second and final term ends next year.

His speech touched on issues he has raised in previous UN appearances, such as suggesting there should be an "independent fact-finding team" established to discover the "truth" behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and complaining about the "hegemonic policies and actions of world Zionism."

The U.S. mission to the United Nations said its delegation did not attend the Iranian president's speech.

Ahmadinejad also criticized the "present oppressive world order" in which "poverty is imposed on nations, and powers' ambitions and goals are pursued either through deceits or resort to force."

"The current abysmal situation of the world and the bitter incidents of history are due mainly to the wrong management of the world and the self-proclaimed centers of power who have entrusted themselves to the devil," he said.

In what appeared to be a call for a new world order based on justice and not domination by big powers, he said the world was founded on materialism and lacking in moral values.

"There is no doubt that the world is in need of a new order and a fresh way of thinking," Ahmadinejad said, adding that this should be "a just and fair order in which everybody is equal before the law and in which there is no double standard."

He said authority should be used as a sacred gift, "not a chance to amass power and wealth." 

As the Iranian president spoke, protesters took to the streets outside the UN building, many of them Iranian-Americans, demanding Iran's UN seat be taken away from the Islamic Republic.

On Monday, Ahmadinejad said Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be "eliminated." The White House dismissed his comments as "disgusting.

Without naming Ahmadinejad, Obama took a veiled swipe at him on Tuesday, saying the world must "leave behind" those who deny the Holocaust or reject Israel's right to exist.

Seeking to step up pressure on Iran, Obama told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that there is still time for a diplomacy but that "time is not unlimited."

His tough talk appeared aimed at easing Israeli concerns about U.S. resolve to curb Tehran's nuclear drive, as he reasserted before the world body that he would never let Iran develop an atomic bomb and then simply contain the problem.

But he stopped short of meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand to set a specific "red line" that Iran must not cross if it is to avoid military action, and did not go much farther in his rhetoric than previously.

"A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained," he said. "It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy."

"The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

In an apparent allusion to recent comments by U.S., Israeli and Iranian officials, Ban opened the annual UN General Assembly by warning states against threatening to attack one another and sounded a pessimistic note about Arab-Israeli peace.

"I also reject both the language of delegitimization and threats of potential military action by one state against another," Ban said. "Any such attacks would be devastating."

U.S. officials have repeatedly said that all options are on the table against Iran - code for a possible military strike - while Israel's Netanyahu has called for a U.S. ultimatum to Iran. But Obama did not repeat that line in his speech.