ROME — Shunned by his hosts and targeted by street demonstrations, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday used a U.N. conference to again condemn Israel and the United States as bellicose regimes on the brink of demise.
Ahmadinejad wasted no time in making his mark on the United Nations food summit in Rome, where world leaders gathered to tackle the crisis of global hunger. He told attendees that food and fuel prices are kept artificially high by greedy powers with "devilish motivations" who should be replaced with "righteous and justice-seeking managers."
The United Nations also came in for the Iranian leader's criticism. He said the world body's power was undermined because the Security Council was controlled by countries with "ceaseless avarice and unappeasable appetite."
And at a long, packed news conference, Ahmadinejad, for the second time in as many days, reiterated his conviction that Israel, because of its treatment of the Palestinians, will disappear from the world map -- a "fabricated entity . . . doomed to go."
He put the United States in a similar bag, saying the "myth of its invincibility is being shattered."
Washington is determined to attack Iran, he said, calling it "eager for war."
Ahmadinejad arrived in Rome earlier Tuesday aboard an Islamic Republic of Iran jetliner and was flanked at all times by a thick cordon of security guards. The U.S. and several European delegations said they would not meet with him, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pointedly excluded him from Tuesday night's gala state dinner.
Delegations from 180 countries are in Rome to attend the three-day conference sponsored by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO.
Outside the summit, members of Rome's Jewish community marched from the historic ghetto to the ancient Colosseum protesting Ahmadinejad's visit. They waved Israeli flags, chanted, "Israel! Israel!" and gave out pamphlets with Ahmadinejad's photograph and the words in Italian, "We don't want you."
At nearby City Hall, Jewish groups were joined by Italian politicians from a wide array of parties and Iranian exiles. It was an unusually diverse gathering, and Gianni Alemanno, Rome's right-wing mayor, announced that he was dimming the eternal lights of the City Hall plaza (designed by Michelangelo) for 15 minutes Tuesday night in protest of Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian exile demonstrators said they wanted to remind the world that human rights and the right to free expression were being crushed in Iran. Almost as if to prove the point, an Iranian journalist who opposes the government and lives in Italy was barred from entering the FAO conference, which is being covered by an estimated 400 reporters. FAO officials said it was Italian security officers who blocked the journalist, Ahmad Rafat, presumably on a request from Ahmadinejad's retinue.
Italy is Iran's largest trade partner in the European Union, Ahmadinejad noted as he made light of any rebuff from Rome.
Ahmadinejad is not the only conference attendee ruffling feathers: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, defying a ban on his travel to European Union nations imposed because of his human rights record, addressed the summit Tuesday.
Mugabe blamed the West for his country's economic woes and accused charities of funneling money to opposition groups.
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He said . . .
Comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about Israel and the Palestinians:
"People like my comments, because people will save themselves from the imposition of the Zionists. European peoples have suffered the greatest damage from Zionists, and today, the costs of this false regime, be they political or economic costs, are on Europe's shoulders."
"You should know that the criminal and terrorist Zionist regime which has 60 years of plundering, aggression and crimes in its file has reached the end of its work and will soon disappear off the geographical scene."
"We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people. There are many Jews living in Iran with security."
Sept. 24, 2007 (Columbia University)
"We inform you that the nations are like an ocean that is welling up, and if a storm begins, the dimensions will not stay limited to Palestine, and you may get hurt."
Oct. 20, 2006 (radio speech)
The Israeli government "does not show mercy even to kids, destroys houses while the occupants are still in them, announces beforehand its . . . plans to assassinate Palestinian figures and keeps thousands of Palestinians in prison."
May 2006 (letter to President Bush)
"Why do you want to force Israel on the holy land of Palestine by killing Muslims? . . . Give a piece of your land in Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska so the Jews can create their own state."
Dec. 14, 2005 (Tehran)
"They have created a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets."
Dec. 14, 2005 (Tehran)
"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury."
Oct. 26, 2005 (Tehran)
Sources: Times archives and wire services