NEW YORK Iranian President Mohammed Khatami yesterday said at the United Nations that the attack on America was an “appalling crime” as Iran edged closer to the United States after two decades of hostility.
“A most brutal and appalling crime has been perpetrated against American civilians,” he said, characterizing the attacks as “inhumane and anti-Islamic.”
Mr. Khatami urged governments and peoples to talk over differences, rather than allow suspicion to generate unending cycles of violence and hatred.
Iran is on the State Department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
Mr. Khatami, who has previously condemned the September 11 attacks, spoke at the United Nations in advance of the seven-day U.N. General Assembly debate, which opens today.
“The horrific terrorist attacks of September 11 in the United States were perpetrated by a cult of fanatics who had self-mutilated their ears and tongues, and could only communicate with perceived opponents through carnage and devastation,” Mr. Khatami said yesterday, cautioning against letting the cycle of violence continue.
“The perception of a need for revenge, coupled with the misplaced sense of might, could lead to failure to hear the calls of people of good will or the cries of children, women and the elderly in Afghanistan.”
He called Afghan civilians “a people whose share in life has been no more than to suffer a prolonged death in the shadow of perpetual horror, hunger and disease.”
Sympathy for the people of Afghanistan who have endured the brutal four-year regime of the Taliban militia, and now the U.S.-led military campaign is expected to dominate the week of public addresses here.
Four dozen world leaders and 100 foreign ministers are confirmed to participate in the event, which was postponed after two hijacked airlines destroyed the World Trade Center.
President Bush will speak to the 189-member General Assembly this morning, amid unprecedented security.
The annual event is always conducted under tight security, but this year in the wake of threats from Osama bin Laden the landmark U.N. headquarters has been as secured as possible.
Arriving heads of state will have to drive around sand-filled dump trucks lining First Avenue, and walk between curtains to obscure the view of would-be assassins. There will be marksmen on nearby rooftops and police dogs in the hallways.
The New York Police Department has closed streets that abut the U.N. compound, and the U.S. Coast Guard has halted boat and barge traffic in the East River.
Uniformed police from several agencies will ring the perimeter.
“Security will be tighter than you have ever experienced before, because the threat is higher,” U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Thursday.
More than 50 speakers, most of them ambassadors, spoke at yesterday’s Iran-sponsored conference, “Dialogue Among Civilizations.”
In his remarks, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte sought to separate Washington’s war on terrorism from accusations that it is part of a broad Western attack on Islam.
“Attempting to don Islam’s mantle, the terrorists argued that they pursued a holy war whose premise was the non-existence of another people,” said Mr. Negroponte yesterday afternoon.
“But these men did not, could not, represent Islam. Instead, criminal actions such as theirs reflect utter alienation and hatred a judgment that innocent people had no right to live, a unilateral decision to incinerate thousands of citizens of many lands and many faiths.”