Monday, April 20, 2009

WALK-OUT AT IRAN LEADER'S SPEECH

Protester at the Geneva conference, 20/04
Two protesters in brightly coloured wigs interrupted Mr Ahmadinejad's speech

Diplomats have walked out of a speech by the Iranian president at a UN anti-racism conference after he described Israel as a "racist government".

Two protesters, wearing coloured wigs, briefly disrupted the beginning of the speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but he continued speaking.

Shortly afterwards a stream of Western delegates walked out when he attacked the creation of the state of Israel.

Some of those who stayed clapped as Mr Ahmadinejad continued his speech.

The walk-out is a public relations disaster for the United Nations, which had hoped the conference would be a shining example of what the UN is good at - uniting to combat injustice in the world, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.

The walk-out happened within minutes of the speech starting on Monday.

Moments earlier security guards escorted two protesters from the conference hall after one threw an object at the Iranian president and they yelled "racist, racist" as he stood at the podium.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Geneva
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued his speech and was applauded by many

Mr Ahmadinejad, the only major leader to attend the conference, said Jewish migrants from Europe and the United States had been sent to the Middle East "in order to establish a racist government in the occupied Palestine".

The US, Israel, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and New Zealand had all boycotted the conference being held in Geneva, in protest at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance, and Israel recalled its ambassador to Switzerland.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had warned that French delegates would walk out if the forum is used as a platform to attack Israel.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed dismay at the boycotts.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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