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Canadian delegation walks out of Ahmadinejad’s UN speech

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during the 67th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Mike Segar/REUTERS

The Canadian delegation at the United Nations walked out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he took the podium to address the general assembly.

The Iranian president, known for making incendiary and anti-Semitic remarks on the UN stage, delivered what was his eighth and last UN address as the country's president. For the most part, it lacked the incendiary tone of previous speeches to the UN, focusing instead on a messianic message that a saviour will come to erase the current world order.

Today's walkout was not the first for Canada. Former foreign minister Lawrence Cannon led a walkout of Mr. Ahmadinejad's address in 2009, and the Canadian delegation walked out last year.

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But Canada's relations with Iran have soured even further. Ottawa recently shut its embassy in Tehran, expelled all Iranian diplomats from Canada, and declared Iran a "state sponsor" of terrorism.

"We will not sit silently in our chairs and listen to Iran's hateful, anti-Western, anti-Semitic views," Richard Roth, press secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said. "If anything, today's address only reinforces our decision earlier this month to suspend diplomatic relations with Iran."

Neither Prime Minister Stephen Harper nor Mr. Baird were at the UN when the Canadian delegation walked out. Mr. Harper will not address the UN this year, and Mr. Baird's speech is scheduled for Monday.

Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, a human-rights lawyer and vocal critic of Iran, has started a campaign to have Mr. Ahmadinejad barred from the UN general assembly.

This year, most of Mr. Ahmadinejad's speech was a messianic sermon devoted to displacing what he called the immoral and materialistic world order led by a minority that holds power – and he promised that a saviour will come to change it. At one point, he even said: "I do not believe that Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and others have any problems or are hostile against each other."

His calls for human rights are likely to strike Iranian democracy activists and many outside observers as Orwellian denial.

But he touched only briefly on the Iranian issue now at the centre of world attention: whether it is developing nuclear weapons, and whether Israel, or the United States, will launch military strikes to stop it. Mr. Ahmadinejad said current nuclear powers use their capability to intimidate others, and he blasted Israel as threatening, "uncivilized Zionists."

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"Arms race and intimidation by nuclear weapons of mass-destruction by the hegemonic powers have become prevalent," he told the general assembly. "Testing new generations of ultra-modern weaponry and the pledge to disclose these armaments in due time is now being used as a new language of threat against nations to coerce them into accepting a new era or hegemony.

"Continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality."

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About the Author
Chief political writer

Campbell Clark has been a political writer in The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau since 2000. Before that he worked for The Montreal Gazette and the National Post. He writes about Canadian politics and foreign policy. More


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