Middle East

Mursi, Ahmadinejad take to U.N. stage

Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 26, 2012. Egypt opposes foreign military intervention to stop the civil war in Syria and prefers an inclusive, negotiated settlement, Mursi, said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

UNITED NATIONS/BEIRUT: Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi Wednesday described the Syrian crisis as “the tragedy of the age,” and decried U.N. failure to enforce the rights of the Palestinian people as “shameful.”

In the second day at the U.N. General Assembly, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also made a predictably fiery attack on Israel, saying his country was under constant threat of military action from “uncivilized Zionists,” in his last address to the body as president ahead of Iranian elections.

Egypt’s Mursi told the assembly in his first address to the body that his country would not support a military intervention to stop the civil war in Syria and prefers an inclusive, negotiated settlement.

“Egypt is committed to pursue the sincere efforts it has been exerting to put an end to the catastrophe in Syria within an Arab, regional and international framework,” Mursi said.

Such a solution should be “one that preserves the unity of this brotherly state, involves all factions of the Syrian people without racial, religious or sectarian discrimination and spares Syria the dangers of foreign military intervention that we oppose.”

He called the crisis there the “tragedy of the age” and one that “we all must end.”

Mursi, an Islamist and key figure in the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, opened his remarks by celebrating himself as Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, who was swept into office after what he called a “great, peaceful revolution.”

He said the first issue for the world body should be certifying the rights of the Palestinian people.

“The fruits of dignity and freedom must not remain far from the Palestinian people,” he said, adding that it was “shameful” that U.N. resolutions are not enforced. He decried Israel’s continued building of settlements on territory that the Palestinians claim for a future state in the West Bank.

Mursi also condemned as an “obscenity” the video produced in the United States that denigrated the Prophet Mohammad.

He condemned the violence that swept Muslim countries last week in reaction to the video and insisted that freedom of expression does not allow for attacks on any religion – an apparent response to President Barack Obama’s General Assembly speech Tuesday in which the U.S. leader condemned the video but sternly defended the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of free speech.

Mursi said freedom of expression must be linked with responsibility, “especially when it comes with serious implications for international peace and stability.”

Earlier, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, known for past denunciations of the United States and Israel, spoke about his vision for a new world order without the “hegemony of arrogance.” On Israel, he cited what he termed the “continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation.

“Arms race and intimidation by nuclear weapons and weapons of mass-destruction by the hegemonic powers have become prevalent,” he said.

He did not refer directly to Iran’s nuclear program.

Israel and Western nations contend that Tehran is using what it insists is a peaceful nuclear program as a cover for developing the ability to build atomic weapons.

Iran is suffering under tough sanctions as punishment for Iran’s failure to cooperate with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency and prove the peaceful nature of its drive to enrich uranium.

Israel has threatened a military strike against Iranian nuclear installations, but Obama insists that time remains to solve the dispute through diplomacy. Obama has vowed, however, to stop Tehran from obtaining a nuclear arsenal.

Ahmadinejad said the 15-nation council, on which the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China all have vetoes, was dominated by “a limited number of governments,” preventing the United Nations from acting in a just and equitable way.

“There is no doubt that the world is in need of a new order and a fresh way of thinking,” Ahmadinejad said.

The U.S. delegation boycotted Ahmadinejad’s speech Wednesday in response to “paranoid theories and repulsive slurs against Israel” that the Iranian president included in a separate address Monday, Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the U.S. Mission to the U.N., said in a statement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 27, 2012, on page 1.




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