From The National Post
Ahmadinejad address ‘low point’ at UN: Harper
David Akin, Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images Protesters shout slogans against Iran’s government during a demonstration in front of the United Nations in New York on Sep. 23, 2009.
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended his decision to pull Canadian officials out of the United Nations General Assembly when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks there Wednesday even though some of Canada’s allies, notably the United States, will keep their officials in the hall.
“That’s a decision that the United States and every other country has a right to make, but Canada makes its own decisions on these matters, and we believe strongly that given President Ahmadinejad’s . . . just disgraceful insulting declarations denying the Holocaust, there is no way I’m going to permit any official of the government of Canada to be present and give any legitimacy to remarks by a leader like that,” Mr. Harper told reporters Wednesday in Oakville, Ont.
Israel has called on world leaders to walk out on Ahmadinejad to protest his call to destroy the Jewish state.
“I think the fact that such brutal thugs, such barbaric dictators like Ahmadinejad, speak in front of the world assembly is a real low point in the annals of the United Nations,” Israel’s deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon told Reuters.
“I think it will be incumbent on all decent countries and leaders to boycott this appearance and speech,” Mr. Ayalon said.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is attending the opening of the UN General Assembly’s annual debate but he and other members of the Canadian delegation will vacate the Canadian seats when the Islamic republic’s president approaches the podium.
Walking out of the chamber is seen as a strong diplomatic show of disgust at the UN — and since the chamber is generally packed on the first day of the annual summit, Canada’s empty seats will not go unnoticed.
“There are times when things are being said in this world that it is important that countries that have a moral compass stand up, make their views known and our absence there will speak volumes about how Canada feels about the declarations of President Ahmadinejad,” Mr. Harper said in Oakville.
The German Foreign Ministry will also pull its officials from the General Assembly and has asked other European Union member states to walk out.
Mr. Ahmadinejad sparked new outrage just last week by again calling Nazi Germany’s murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust a “myth”, then saying the angry reaction he provoked was a “source of pride” to him. His anti-Israel statements have included calling for the country — created by the UN shortly after the Second World War — to be “wiped of the map.”
Canada annually leads a multination effort in the UN General Assembly to highlight in successive resolutions Iran’s poor human-rights record. The effort infuriates Iran, which pulls out all the diplomatic stops to try to block it.
“President Ahmadinejad has said things particularly about the state of israel, the Jewish people, and the Holocaust that are absolutely repugnant,” Mr. Harper said. “It is unfitting that somebody like that would be giving those kinds of remarks before the United Nations General Assembly.”
Canada and other western nations are also concerned about the fate of hundreds of people arrested in the violent crackdown Mr. Ahmadinejad and his supporters ordered as opposition rose to his disputed re-election as president in June.
Among those jailed was Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who was in the Islamic republic for Newsweek magazine to cover the election and ensuing protests.
“The fiasco there around the elections is quite disturbing,” Harper said. “As well, the holding of a Canadian journalist, Mr. Bahari, without charge continues to be unacceptable. We continue to demand his release.”
The Obama administration has sought to launch a dialogue with Iran, and direct talks between the two countries over western opposition to Iran’s nuclear program are scheduled for Oct. 1.
However, Obama officials, among them U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, denounced Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments on the Holocaust.
Mr. Obama is expected to try to avoid Mr. Ahmadinejad at the UN, even though he said in a 2007 campaign debate he was prepared to meet personally with the Iranian leader — without preconditions.
The West suspects Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing a nuclear bomb, though Iran, despite being oil-rich, said it wants to produce nuclear energy only.