Local officials, civic leaders plan to protest Ahmadinejad's Columbia speech
Israel's UN envoy: Iranian Pres. at Ground Zero like Hitler at Auschwitz; Columbia resisting pressure to cancel speech.
NEW YORK - Elected local officials and civic leaders plan to demonstrate Sunday outside Columbia University, where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was scheduled to speak at a forum on Monday.
More protests were to follow Monday near Columbia and the United Nations, where the Ahmadinejad was to address the General Assembly on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Columbia University's heads are resisting pressure to cancel a scheduled on-campus appearance by Ahmadinejad, who has made statements questioning the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
Columbia University President Lee Bollinger on Friday defended the initiative to invite Ahmadinejad to speak by saying that the university had extended the invitation only after the president agreed to give equal time for questions. Bollinger said he planned on presenting Ahmadinejad with a number of pointed and challenging questions.
While some public officials have called for Columbia to change its mind about the visit, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that the visit is an internal matter.
A Columbia professor who is an Iran expert and was among those behind the initiative told the media on Friday that he believed it was important to invite Ahmadinejad to speak, since he was the head of a state with which the U.S. might find itself at war.
However, the real headache for the New York City police is likely to be the Iranian leader's attempt to visit Ground Zero.
Israel's United Nations envoy Dan Gillerman told the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organization that a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Ground Zero would be similar to a visit by a resurrected Hitler to Auschwitz.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had prohibited Ahmadinejad's visit to the scene of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Twin Towers, but according to an interview he gave to "60 minutes," to be broadcast tonight, the Iranian president has not abandoned his plan to visit the site. However, when asked his opinion as to Kelly's refusal to allow the visit, Ahmadinejad said it would have to be coordinated with the local authorities, and if they did not agree, he would not insist.
When asked whether he did not consider his visit to the site of the Twin Towers attack as an insult to the American people, he asked why it should be considered as such.