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September 21, 2022 2:28 pm

Iranian President Raisi Calls Nuclear Program ‘Peaceful’ in UNGA Speech, Israeli Ambassador Walks Out

avatar by Andrew Bernard

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi brandishes a photo of assassinated Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani during his address to the UN General Assembly. Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday addressed the UN General Assembly, declaring that Iran’s nuclear program was peaceful.

“Some powers are trying to make the world forget the main issue of global disarmament by making Iran’s peaceful activities a problem,” Raisi said. “I explicitly declare that the Islamic Republic of Iran is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons and such weapons have no place in our defense doctrine.”

Raisi’s speech also accused the west of practicing hypocrisy over women’s rights as the Islamic Republic grapples with mass demonstrations following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who was arrested for her “unsuitable attire.” Raisi referred to “an incident under investigation” in Iran, but contrasted it with “the deathly silence about the killing of dozens of helpless women in a short time in one of the western countries.” 

While he did not name the western country in question, he expressed more forthright views about Israel. “The Zionist Regime, which has more than seventy years of apartheid, oppression and murder of women and children in its dark history, has built the largest prison on earth in Gaza,” Raisi said. “And the continuation of settlement construction and the images of the oppressed Palestinians crying due to the usurpation of their lands, homes and farms, and the killing of their children, show everyone that seven decades of oppression and occupation by Israel is not over.”

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At the start of Raisi’s speech, Israeli UN envoy Gilad Erdan walked out of the General Assembly hall after displaying a picture of his grandmothers, both Holocaust survivors, on the table of the Israeli delegation. In an interview on Sunday with “60 Minutes,” Raisi said of the Holocaust that there were “some signs that it happened,” but that more investigation was needed to establish its veracity. Iranian leaders have a long record of promoting and articulating Holocaust denial.

“The UN has descended to a new moral low today,” Erdan said. “While in Iran the Ayatollah regime oppresses its citizens, murders women who do not cover their heads, and finances terror attacks around the world, here at the United Nations, which was established to prevent such atrocities, the president of Iran, the murderer and Holocaust denier Raisi, gets a platform to spread his hatred. It’s a disgrace and that’s why I called all the ambassadors to leave the General Assembly during his speech.”

US President Joe Biden also spoke at the General Assembly on Wednesday and briefly addressed the stalled negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal. “While the United States is prepared for a mutual return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action if Iran steps up to its obligations, the United States is clear: We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Biden said, in a speech largely focused on denouncing Russia’s “outrageous” abuses during its invasion of Ukraine.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid is scheduled to speak to the General Assembly on Thursday.

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