- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not be welcome at ground zero when he visits New York next week to speak at the United Nations.

Paul J. Browne, deputy commissioner of the New York City Police Department, said the requested visit was “rejected in a meeting which included the Secret Service and Port Authority officials.”

“The site is closed to visitors because of construction there. That was the only request,” Mr. Browne told The Washington Times.

“Requests for the Iranian president to visit the immediate area would also be opposed by the NYPD on security grounds,” he added.

Mr. Ahmadinejad will arrive in New York on Sunday and is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday.

The request by the Iranian mission to the United Nations was made to the New York City Police Department and the Secret Service. Both law-enforcement agencies will oversee security during his visit to the city.

Earlier yesterday, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said an Ahmadinejad visit was being sought by the office of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who was considering escorting the Iranian leader to the site personally.

Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser declined to confirm or deny the commissioner’s charge, instead saying repeatedly that “there is nothing to discuss. The NYPD is not permitting him to visit ground zero.”

Gordon Johndroe, White House National Security Council spokesman, called the Iranian president’s request “odd.”

Although “it is a matter for the city of New York,” he said, “it seems odd that the president of a country that is a leading state sponsor of terror would visit ground zero.”

Many presidential hopefuls responded to reports that the Iranian president was going to visit the site. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s request was denied after a flurry of criticism.

“It is unacceptable for Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who refuses to renounce and end his own country’s support of terrorism, to visit the site of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in our nation’s history,” said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, the Democratic presidential front-runner.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, the poll-leading Republican candidate, said that “under no circumstances should the NYPD” allow the Iranian president to visit the site.

“This is a man who has made threats against America and Israel, is harboring [Osama] bin Laden’s son and other al Qaeda leaders, is shipping arms to Iraqi insurgents and is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons,” Mr. Giuliani said.

“Assisting Ahmadinejad in touring ground zero — hallowed ground for all Americans — is outrageous.”

Republican candidate Mitt Romney was shocked by the Iranian president’s audacity, calling it “inconceivable that any consideration would be given to the idea of entertaining the leader of a state sponsor of terror at ground zero.”

Mr. Romney added that the Iranian president should be banned from the United Nations for denying the Holocaust and speaking openly about “wiping Israel off the map.”

“If President Ahmadinejad sets foot in the United States, he should be handed an indictment under the Genocide Convention,” the former Massachusetts governor said.

Former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, asked that people not forget that Mr. Ahmadinejad called for “a world without America and Zionism” in 2005. Under the podium where Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke was a poster of Earth in an hourglass, with America and Israel falling and crashing into a void, Mr. Santorum remembered.

“Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg should think of this image before allowing such a tyrant to step foot on the hallowed ground where thousands perished on September 11, 2001,” he added.

c Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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