GENEVA — Dozens of Western diplomats walked out of a United Nations conference on racism Monday when Iran's hard-line president called Israel the "most cruel and repressive racist regime."
The United States, which is boycotting the conference, called Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks hateful -- injecting new tension into a relationship that had been warming after President Obama sought to engage Iran in talks on its nuclear program and other issues.
The meeting was chaotic almost from the start, when two rainbow-wigged protesters tossed red clown noses at Ahmadinejad as he began his speech with a Muslim prayer. A Jewish student group from France said it had been trying to convey "the masquerade that this conference represents."
Ahmadinejad, the first government official to take the floor at the weeklong event in Geneva, delivered a half-hour speech that was by turns conciliatory and inflammatory.