April 20, 2009
The UN Secretary General says he “deplores” the comments made by the Iranian leader on Israel. France and Britain are also among other countries who have condemned them.
Earlier, Ban Ki-moon had expressed strong disappointment at the non-attendance of many Western nations.
He told the meeting that “we dream of moving in a new direction, yet too many of us cling to the past”.
“Some nations, who by rights should be helping to forge a path to a better future, are not here,” he said. “Outside these halls, interest groups of many political and ideological stripes shout against one another in acrimony. They too should be with us talking.”
U.S. officials roundly condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Monday for using an anti-racism conference in Geneva as a platform for lambasting Israel.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called the tirade “hateful rhetoric” and cited Ahmadinejad’s behavior as one of the reasons the U.S. boycotted the United Nations conference.
“The president disagrees vehemently with what was said, as from some of the video I saw, so did many others,” Gibbs said.
He was referring to the dozens of representatives, mainly from Europe, who walked out of the U.N. conference in protest of Ahmadinejad’s address. Several other countries, including the United States, boycotted the conference before it began, largely because they expected it to be used as a venue for anti-Israel rhetoric.
Ahmadinejad on Monday called Israel the “most cruel and racist regime” and blamed Western countries for the financial crisis. He also called the Holocaust a “pretext” for aggression, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“I think the president and the administration, obviously, made the right decision in not going forward with attendance at this conference, despite, obviously, a president that believes greatly that racism and intolerance must be and should be addressed,” Gibbs said.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters that Ahmadinejad’s remarks “frankly, were unacceptable and, frankly, feed racial hatred.”
“Iran needs to end this type of inflammatory rhetoric. It’s not helpful,” Wood said. “This is not rhetoric that should be used in the 21st century.”
President Obama has made several overtures to the Muslim world, including Iran, prompting Ahmadinejad to say his country “welcomes a hand extended to it” earlier this month.
Despite Monday’s anti-Israel rhetoric, Wood said the Obama administration still wants to engage Iran diplomatically.
“In the end, it’s going to be up to Iran, but this administration has said it’s willing to engage in direct diplomacy,” Wood said.
FOX News’ Nina Donaghy contributed to this report
Monday, April 20, 2009