Bush, Ahmadinejad Air Competing Views at U.N. President Bush urges the U.N. General Assembly to support "the forces of moderation in the Middle East." Addressing the Iranian people, he said its rulers are the greatest obstacles to Iran's progress. Hours later, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended his policies.
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Bush, Ahmadinejad Air Competing Views at U.N.

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Bush, Ahmadinejad Air Competing Views at U.N.

Bush, Ahmadinejad Air Competing Views at U.N.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

World leaders are addressing the United Nations General Assembly this week in New York. Earlier today, President Bush addressed the assembly, urging world leaders to support what he called the forces of moderation in the Middle East.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: From Beirut to Baghdad, people are making the choice for freedom. And the nations gathered in this chamber must make a choice as well. Will we support the moderates and reformers who are working for change across the Middle East? Or will we yield the future to the terrorists and extremists? America's made its choice. We will stand with the moderates and reformers.

BLOCK: President Bush also addressed the Iranian people directly, saying that Iran's rulers were the greatest obstacles to the country's future progress.

NPR's Michele Kelemen is at the UN and joins us now. Michele, tonight Irania President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the assembly. What did he have to say?

MICHELE KELEMEN: Well, that's right. He talked, as he has done in the past, about his country's right to nuclear research. He's always argued that it has a peaceful nuclear power program. And he said the the U.S. has been using the Security Council as an instrument of threat and coercion. You recall that the Security Council did pass a resolution urging Iran to suspend controversial nuclear programs by August 31, a deadline that it has missed.

In fact, Ahmadinejad really used this speech to criticize a lot of U.S. policies, from its support of Israel, a country that he doesn't think has the right to exist, to the U.S. war in Iraq. Let's listen to a bit here. He spoke through an interpreter.

President MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (Iran): (Through translator): Some seek to rule the world relying on weapons and threats, while other live in perpetual insecurity and danger. Some occupy the homeland of others, thousands of kilometers away from their borders, interfere in their affairs and control their oil and other resources and strategic routes, while others are bombarded daily in their own homes, their children murdered in the streets and alleys of their own country and their homes reduced to rubble.

KELEMEN: So as you can see, what he tried to do was really paint the West, the U.S. in particular, as the real threat to peace and security and not his country.

BLOCK: And it does sound like he and Iran in general are trying to drive a wedge between the United States and its allies on this question of Iran's nuclear program.

KELEMEN: Well, it'll be interesting to see how this speech plays out. A top State Department official was saying today that often Ahmadinejad's more outrageous comments are the glue that brings this coalition together. But so far what we've heard from here is that the Europeans in particular are holding out more hope for some sort of negotiations to get started. The U.S. has been pushing for sanctions to punish Iran for missing that deadline to suspend nuclear activities.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is having this dinner meeting tonight to try to figure out the diplomatic next step and to try to hold this coalition together.

BLOCK: You mentioned a dinner meeting tonight. Who is that meeting with and what is the topic of that?

KELEMEN: Well, she's meeting with this group that she's met with periodically, the group that offered Iran a package of incentives aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. It's the U.S., Russia, China, the U.K., Britain, France, so the permanent five Security Council members, plus Germany and Italy is involved in the negotiations as well, and the European Union's Javier Solana, who's been trying to work out a meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly with Iran's nuclear negotiator, who's here.

BLOCK: Okay. NPR's Michele Kelemen joining us from the U.N. Thanks very much, Michele.

KELEMEN: You're quite welcome.

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