Iranian Leader Still Spouts Off On Usual Topics, But His Message Weakened

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The controversial president of Iran made a final speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad leaves office next year, thanks to term limits. His “last blast” at the UN lacked some of the fire of years’ past.

“I represent a nation dedicated to the cause of freedom, peace and compassion,” Ahmadinejad said.

A somewhat subdued Ahmadinejad held himself out as a man of peace, but still took a swipe at the United States for killing Osama bin Laden without a trial. And at one point played political analyst, bemoaning the role of money in U.S. elections.

“Are we to believe that those who would spend hundreds of millions of dollars on election campaigns have the interest of the people of the world in their hearts?” Ahmadinejad said.

And on the day of Yom Kippur, he briefly criticized Israel for threatening to take out Iran’s nuclear program.

“[The] continued threats by the uncivilized Zionist to resort to military action against our great nation are an example of this bitter reality,” Ahmadinejad said.

Diplomats said it was perhaps the least provocative speech the Iranian leader has ever given at the UN, but it still set off a storm of protest outside as Iranian dissidents and Ahmadinejad critics called for the UN to support regime change and full democracy in Iran.

“To send a message, the people of Iran stand for democracy, human rights, a secular, non-nuclear Iran,” Iran opposition group member Alireza Jafarzadeh told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

In fact, Ahmadinejad is in the final months of his presidency after having lost some influence after a dispute with Iran’s top religious leader.

“He makes these bombastic statements even though he doesn’t have the authority to do anything, but he loves the media, he loves the attention,” said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Foundation.

And on the day of Ahmadinejad’s last UN speech he was outdone on the Israel criticism front by Egypt’s new president, who making his General Assembly debut.

“I call for immediate movement, serious movement as of now to put an end to colonization, occupation, and settlement,” Mohammed Morsi said.

The U.S. delegation walked out when Ahmadinejad spoke. Some criticized the timing of his speech, on Yom Kippur, but in fact the UN does not adjust its schedule for any of the major Jewish holidays.

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