- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

UNITED NATIONS | Organizers of Monday’s protest against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have disinvited Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin from the event, saying her presence could overshadow their cause.

The “Stop Iran” rally, organized by a coalition of Jewish groups alarmed by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, announced their decision one day after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, withdrew, saying Mrs. Palin’s presence would make the rally a partisan event.

“In order to keep the focus on Iranian threats and to ensure that this critical message not be obscured, the organizers of the rally have decided not to have any American political personalities appear,” the group said in a statement.

The rally is to be held across the street from the United Nations building, where Mr. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Tuesday afternoon - hours after President Bush makes his final appearance as president before the world body.

The McCain campaign swung back quickly, issuing a statement in support for the rally and casting blame for the snub on his Democratic adversaries.

“Governor Palin was pleased to accept an invitation to address this rally and show her resolve on this grave national security issue. Regrettably that invitation has since been withdrawn under pressure from Democratic partisans,” the McCain statement said. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with Republicans, Democrats and independents alike to oppose Ahmadinejad’s goal of a nuclear armed Iran. Senator Obama’s campaign had the opportunity to join us. Senator Obama chose politics rather than the national interest.”

The McCain campaign had indicated that the candidates would attend the Tuesday session, which feature speeches by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and presidents Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia and Mr. Ahmadinejad. Leaders from Georgia, Finland, Kenya, Switzerland, Turkey and Qatar are also on Tuesday’s schedule for next week’s General Assembly session.

A visit to the United Nations, campaign officials thought, would have boosted the foreign affairs credentials of Mrs. Palin, who has not traveled widely or engaged in much global policy while in state government.

Mr. Ban does not expect to meet the Republican candidate when she comes to the United Nations next week, saying the campaign had not asked to see him.

“I have not been informed, I have received no request,” Mr. Ban told The Washington Times in an interview, adding that he had read about it in the media.

Earlier this week, McCain campaign officials had said Mrs. Palin would join Mr. Ban at the opening day of the U.N. General Assembly Debate.

The annual event draws scores of presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers - as well as the protesters that follow them.

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