Reporting Alex Silverman
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The United Nations General Assembly is still two days away, but it’s already drawing world leaders and international criticism to New York.
Among the world leaders gathering is the always controversial Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and he’s booked a room at Manhattan’s Warwick Hotel.
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Battered white concrete barricades clashed with the ornate golden marble entrance to the hotel Friday – extra protection one would assume is there for next week, when Iran’s dictator arrives.
Not everybody is happy with the idea.
“It’s completely irresponsible for them to be accommodating the leader of a criminal regime that is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism which is killing U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and which is illegally pursuing nuclear weapons,” Nathan Carleton of United Against A Nuclear Iran (UANI) told CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer.
The head of the organization, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Mark D. Wallace, sent the Warwick a note demanding it reconsider.
“This is not just an issue of someone who makes extreme or inflammatory statements. There are several world leaders who are guilty of that. The main issue is that this is a regime that’s the world largest state sponsor of terrorism, including Al-Qaida,” said Carleton.
The advocacy group charges that in putting out the welcome mat the hotel is accepting blood money.
“When a business supports them, does business with them, takes their money, that business is empowering the regime by giving it legitimacy, giving it a lifeline” Carleton told CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer.
When the notorious Iranian leader used the Warwick Hotel for a press conference last year, there were bomb dogs and barricades and enough protection agents to fill a Broadway theater. This year, it’s going to be a bigger show since he’s going to be a guest there.
“It’s offensive, it’s inappropriate and in poor taste,” Carleton said. He suggests Ahmadinejad stay with Iran’s mission to the U.N.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been put in an uncomfortable position of defending Ahmadinejad’s right to pitch his text wherever he wants.
“You cannot have the United Nations here if you’re going to tell them they can’t have one of their member states or somebody they invite,” he said.
Even though security for Ahmadinejad will cost the city a pretty penny — last year he had 30 police officers and two firefighters assigned to him full time — the mayor says the city spends the money because of the U.N.’s importance to our economy.
“It doesn’t mean you endorse it. It doesn’t mean you like it,” Bloomberg said. “You’d prefer something else but the truth of the matter is, if you want the United Nations — and we really do this is a very big part of our economy. You just can’t say no.”
New Yorkers have their own views.
“You claim you don’t like American ways, American views but you want to stay in our hotels? I don’t think so,” Jackie Camara said.
“He’s not what we stand for, especially on the heels of the 9/11 anniversary,” RaPorlph Ladolfi said. “I don’t approve at all.”
Some, however, do side with Bloomberg.
“You have the right to say whatever you want, it’s America, we’re a free society, you have to respect people’s rights even if you vehemently disagree with them,” Brandon Russell said. “It’s America, he can do what he wants.”
There was no comment this morning from the Warwick.
An NYPD spokesman said Ahmadinejad will have a special protection just as he does every year.
Besides Ahmadinejad, the Palestinian observer to the U.N. also brought controversy. Riyad Mansour escorted a symbolic “U.N. seat” into New York, referencing the controversial decision by President Mahmoud Abbas to ask for Palestinan statehood, even though talks with Israel are stalled.
Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni told CBS 2′s Lou Young the move worries him because without a negotiated deal it’s premature.
“If the bar of expectation is going to be raised to an unrealistic level by the Palestinians, inevitably it will create disappointment and may lead, sadly, to a third round of violence between Israelis and Palestinians,” said Aharoni.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be here next week as week along with President Obama, who plans to meets with him ahead of a confrontation over statehood for Palestine.
The U.S. is expected to veto a statehood resolution if passed, and indications are the Palestinians may be willing to accept an intermediate step of becoming a “nonmember” state.
“If one road is blocked we will follow another,” said Mansour.
What do you think? Should Ahmadinejad be allowed to stay at a luxury hotel or be forced to stay elsewhere? Sound off below!