NEW YORK – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who arrived in New York on Sunday for the UN General Assembly meetings this week, described international sanctions against his country as meaningless and ineffective, as consternation about Iran’s nuclear future grows.

The UN’s annual summit will focus on the Millennium Development Goals and will run from Monday through Wednesday. The Security Council is to meet on Thursday, and the General Assembly will convene from Thursday through September 30.

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Ahmadinejad will participate in the UN’s high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament later in the week, according to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ahmadinejad has used past UN meetings to attack the United States, Israel and their European allies for allegedly preventing developing countries from having access to nuclear technology on the pretext of preventing arms proliferation.

Ahmadinejad held a meeting with Ban on Sunday, discussing developments in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Middle East.

According to a spokesman in Ban’s office, the secretarygeneral commended Iran for its constructive role in counter- narcotics enforcement activities, thanked Iran for continuing to host a large number of Afghan and Iraqi refugees and encouraged Iran to continue supporting their welfare.

Ban expressed the hope that Iran will engage constructively in negotiations with the P 5+1 countries (the five permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany) “in allowing a mutually acceptable agreement in conformity with relevant Security Council resolutions,” the spokesman said.

Ahmadinejad also did an interview with Christiane Amanpour on ABC’s This Week, saying he would have a meeting this week with the United States on nuclear issues.

“We’ve always been ready to discuss issues as long as they’re within the legal frame-of justice and respect,” Ahmadinejad said in the interview.

While US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, earlier on the same program, that she has no meetings planned with Iranian officials, she has said that she will be discussing the rise of military power in Iran when world leaders gather in New York for the General Assembly.

In his interview with Amanpour, Ahmadinejad called sanctions against Iran “meaningless.”

“We do take sanctions seriously, but taking it seriously is different from believing that they are effective,” he said, calling the sanctions “a serious violation of international law” and saying that Iran is fully complying with UN International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

“It was illegal. It was wrong,” Ahmadinejad said of the sanctions. “They wronged the people of Iran and insulting them [sic] and these sanctions will definitively mark a new level of progress in our economy. We have turned sanctions around and created opportunities out of it.

“Now, this doesn’t mean certainly that we [don’t] take it seriously, but it does not mean that it has a negative influence on our economy, because it does not.”

When asked about Fidel Castro’s recent comments, in which the Cuban leader told Ahmadinejad to stop attacking the Jews, denying the Holocaust and being anti- Semitic, Ahmadinejad said he is not an anti-Semite.

“We’ve never been anti- Semitic – when was I anti- Semitic?” he said. “The Jews live in Iran, like every other person who lives in Iran freely.”

Ahmadinejad’s recent comments on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have also stirred tumult. He said on Saturday that Middle Eastern countries will “disrupt” American and Israeli plans to change the political geography of the region, The Associated Press reported.

The Iranian leader made the comments during a brief stop in Syria, a key ally in Teheran’s confrontation with the West, on his way to New York.

“Those who want to change the political geography of the region must know that they will have no place in the future of the region,” he was quoted as saying by Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA.

Ahmadinejad’s arrival in New York is being greeted with protests by various groups.



One group, StandWithUs, is encouraging people to send letters to urge the Hilton not to host Ahmadinejad while he is in New York, while another group, United Against Nuclear Iran, is organizing a worldwide boycott of Hilton Hotels as a result of Ahmadinejad’s accommodation.

It is said, though not confirmed, that Ahmadinejad and the Iranian delegation will be staying at the Hilton Manhattan East during their time in New York. Other New York hotels, such as the Helmsley Hotel and the Jumeirah Essex House, refused to accommodate Ahmadinejad.

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