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23 Sep, 2008 23:37

Protesters greet Ahmadinejad in New York

Thousands of protesters camped outside the U.N. headquarters in New York on Tuesday as world leaders addressed the 63rd U.N. General Assembly. One of the largest groups came to denounce Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose nuclear ambitions as wel

Israeli supporters, under the banner “Stop Iran Now”, rallied near the UN Headquarters, condemning the arrival of Iran’s controversial President.

“Ahmadinejad is a person who is inciting war crimes, inciting genocide against humanity. If that's the case – he has no business being here. And the world needs to take his problems seriously. The problem of a nuclear Iran is a problem that can not be tolerated in this world,” one of the protesters said.

The rally was closely followed in the United States as it became another flashpoint of the presidential race. U.S. Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton were invited to the rally and agreed to speak. But Clinton pulled out when she learned the Republican would also be attending. Palin’s invitation was later withdrawn by organisers citing fears the rally would become a political sparring ground and obscure their “critical message”.

While the majority denounced the presence of the Iranian president, there was also a small group of Jewish people that welcomed his message and called for diplomacy.

Members of “Jews United Against Zionism” demonstrated behind barricades calling for an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory. They consider Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a peaceful leader and say he deserves more respect from the West.

“President Ahmadinejad, who I personally spoke to for hours – we met him many times – he insists he has nothing against the Jews. He respects, protects them,” Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss from Jew United Against Zionism said.

Jewish activists were joined at the rally by members of the organization “Code Pink”, who called on the United States and UN members to “negotiate with Iran”.