Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ranted against the world's superpowers, scoffed at Israel's threat to bomb his country and accused the United States of killing Osama bin Laden without due process in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday.
Ahmadinejad largely avoided the bluntly offensive rhetoric that has marked his previous appearances, in which he expressed doubt about the Holocaust and about the guilt of the 9/11 hijackers. Instead, in his final appearance at the U.N. before the end of his second and final term in office, he picked his targets a little more carefully.
He did not mention the state of Israel by name, because he refuses to acknowledge its existence. He referred only to "the Zionists" who, he said, were part of an "arms race" financed by the world's economic powers to intimidate his country. The "continued threat of military action is a clear example of this bitter reality," he said.
In an apparent dig at the United States, Ahmadinejad added: "No one feels secure or safe, even those who have stockpiled thousands of weapons."
Diplomats in the audience sat calm and grim-faced throughout Ahmadinejad's address, and politely applauded when it ended. The American contingent did not attend; it boycotted the speech to protest Ahmadinejad's comments earlier in the week, in which he called for the elimination of Israel. The U.S. mission to the U.N. was also upset that he was given the floor on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, NBC News reported.
In winding, metaphor-laden remarks, Ahmadinejad described Iran as a "noble nation" with a "global vision" and that "welcomes any effort intended to promote peace and stability and tranquility" through "joint management of the world."
He then spun a long list of atrocities throughout world history in which he included the "tragic incidents of 9/11" and the death of bin Laden, whom he identified only as "the culprit." He accused American forces of killing bin Laden and dumping his body into the sea "without trial" when it should have assembled "an independent fact-finding team" to investigate.
Ahmadinejad arrived in New York with his power and influence waning. He leaves office in 2013, and he is widely seen as a mouthpiece for Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.
While his rhetoric was not dissimilar from his previous eight speeches to the General Assembly, Ahmadinejad's appearance took place during a particularly fraught set of circumstances for Iran, the Middle East and for President Barack Obama.
The United States and Israel accuse Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon, which Tehran denies. Western sanctions have weakened Iran's economy. Israel has been pressing Obama to take more aggressive action and has threatened to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.
Obama, who is running for re-election, told the General Assembly on Tuesday that time is running out to resolve the standoff and warned that America would not abide a nuclear-armed Iran.
Ahmadinejad did not mention Iran's nuclear program in his speech. But he accused the West of using the nuclear issue as a cudgel to push Iran around, even as he indicated a willingness for further dialogue.
He focused a large part of his remarks on the need for a "new world order" in which the strongest nations - the "self-proclaimed centers of power who have entrusted themselves to the devil" - would stop subjugating the weaker ones. He blamed the world's ills on the influences of capitalism and commercialism, and accused the United Nations Security Council of being dominated by a relatively small number of economic powers.
"No doubt, the world is in need of a new world order and a fresh way of thinking in which God is recognized as the supreme creature," Ahmadinejad said.