Thursday, 27 September 2007
"In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country"
HARDLINE Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was booed and laughed at a New York university yesterday as he insisted there were no homosexuals in his country.
And he suffered the rare humiliation of a public dressing-down when the university president introducing him called him a "petty and cruel dictator".
"In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country,," the President said at Columbia University during a controversial question-and-answer session.
"In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who has told you that we have it."
Amnesty International said figures suggest Iran has executed 200 people this year including many homosexuals.
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, ridiculed the comments.
"Well, I think we just all know that's absurd," Mr Downer said.
Mr Ahmadinejad was due to address the United Nations General Assembly overnight, where he is expected to ask for an end to sanctions against his regime over his refusal to end nuclear enrichment.
Mr Downer said he did not believe the Security Council would contemplate scrapping sanctions, and "nor should it".
He also said he did not believe Australia and its allies were "inexorably slipping towards a military confrontation with Iran", but added "you couldn't rule that out".
Mr Ahmadinejad, the firebrand and hardline leader of Iran, has questioned the Holocaust and believes Israel should be wiped off the map.
Addressing Columbia University in a heated and tense session, he was greeted by thousands of irate protesters.
Uni president Lee Bollinger, who had been heavily criticised by Jewish groups and US politicians for inviting the Iranian leader, introduced him by saying he exhibited all the signs of a "petty and cruel dictator" who looked "simply ridiculous" when he denied the Holocaust.
"You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated," he said. "Will you cease this outrage?"