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Iran's Ahmadinejad heads to New York for last UN meet

In what will be his last address to the UN General Assembly before stepping down next year, Iran's President Ahmadinejad's speech next week is awaited with anticipation and some concern

AFP , Saturday 22 Sep 2012
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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left Tehran Saturday for New York and the UN General Assembly, where he will deliver his final speech to the world gathering, Iranian media reported.

His speech this year is keenly awaited in the face of sharp differences with the UN Security Council over Iran's controversial nuclear programme, and Israeli threats to launch pre-emptive strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Past addresses by Ahmadinejad to the General Assembly, which have included Holocaust denials and allegations of a conspiracy behind the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, have prompted walk-outs by US and other Western representatives.

Ahmadinejad is expected to make his remarks on or around Wednesday. UN rules limit speakers to five minutes on the podium.

Before leaving Tehran, the president told reporters he would be stressing issues raised in an Iran-hosted summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, particularly on UN reform "and solving regional issues, including Syria ... putting an end to the violence there."

The news agency ISNA quoted him as saying: "The problem with the world is that those who control international relations seek only their own interests, and they find the independence of others against their interests."

Ahmadinejad said he would also hold bilateral meetings on the assembly's sidelines and give media interviews. It will be Ahmadinejad's last address to the UN's 193 member states. Next year, he is to step down after serving his second and final term as president.

Ahmadinejad's presence in New York for the UN meeting has in the past sparked small protests.

This year another is planned, with the US anti-Iran lobby group United Against Nuclear Iran urging the Manhattan hotel where Ahmadinejad is staying to expel the Iranian leader.

Ahamdinejad's delegation includes Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and several close aides, among them chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and Vice President Hamid Baqaei.

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