Ahmadinejad to Address U.N. General Assembly

Posted September 22nd, 2011 at 9:03 am (UTC-5)
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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the United Nations General Assembly Thursday — a day after Iran released two American hikers it had held for two years on suspicion of spying.

Iranian media say President Ahmadinejad's speech is expected to focus on the themes of global management and fundamental reform of the United Nations.

During past addresses to the U.N., Mr. Ahmadinejad has stirred up controversy. He has denied the holocaust and expressed doubt about the official version of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — claims that have prompted a series of walkouts by diplomats during his speeches.

On Wednesday, Iranian authorities released the two hikers, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, on a combined bail of $1 million, in what President Ahmadinejad called a “humanitarian gesture.” Many analysts say the move may have been intended to gain international approval for Iran's president ahead of his address in New York.

Despite the release, protests over Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons program — among other issues — are being staged in New York City. U.S. President Barack Obama called for greater pressure on and isolation of Iran over that program during his U.N. address on Wednesday.

President Ahmadinejad's speech comes as Palestinian and Israeli leaders are locked in a diplomatic dispute over formal U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood. Palestinian leaders are preparing to submit their application for full U.N. membership to the Security Council on Friday.

On Wednesday, President Ahmadinejad told ABC News that he supports such a move, calling Israel an “occupying and illegal government.”

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama warned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday that the U.S. would veto any U.N. Security Council move to recognize a Palestinian state. President Obama held separate talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel's security.

In a speech to the General Assembly, President Obama said there can be “no shortcuts” to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying the dispute must be resolved through direct negotiations, and not at the United Nations.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also addressed the world body Wednesday, proposing that Palestinians be given upgraded observer status while setting out a roadmap for direct talks with Israel to be concluded within a year.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are also expected to address the General Assembly on Thursday.