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NYC officials asks Columbia University to cancel speech by Iranian president


Columbia University is providing Iran’s president with a forum for his “hate speech” and should withdraw its invitation to have Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speak at the prestigious university, the head of New York City’s City Council said Thursday.

“The idea of Ahmadinejad as an honored guest anywhere in our city is offensive to all New Yorkers,” Council speaker Christine Quinn wrote. “Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier, here for one reason to spread his hate-mongering vitriol on the world stage.”

Ahmadinejad was scheduled to appear Monday at a question and answer session with university faculty and students as part of the school’s World Leaders Forum. Columbia spokesman Robert Hornsby said Thursday that there was no plan to cancel the appearance.

Quinn’s call came a day after New York City police officials rejected Ahmadinejad’s request to visit lay a wreath at the World Trade Center, citing security concerns and ongoing construction at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. U.S. diplomats had blasted the request as an attempt to turn ground zero into a “photo op.”

Ahmadinejad, in an interview to air Sunday on “60 Minutes,” indicated he would not press the issue. “I won’t insist,” he said, although he expressed disbelief that the visit would offend Americans.

The Iranian president, who is scheduled to arrive Saturday for the U.N. General Assembly, has run into difficulties before when planning talks at Columbia.

Last year, the Ivy League university dropped plans for a speech by Ahmadinejad due to security and logistical problems. But the decision also came after a Jewish activist group blasted the university over its invitation to the Iranian president, who has called the Holocaust a “myth” and said Israel should be destroyed.

The Jewish Defense Organization issued a call Thursday for cancellation of this year’s speaking date, describing Ahmadinejad as “the Hitler of Iran.”

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, in announcing the appearance, said Ahmadinejad has agreed to answer questions on Israel and the Holocaust. He described the event as part of “Columbia’s long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues.”

That was not enough to satisfy Quinn.

“He can say whatever he wants on any street corner, but should not be given center stage at one of New York’s most prestigious centers of high education,” she said.

– Associated Press

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