Bush blasts UNHRC for anti-Israel bias

Sarkozy: A nuclear Iran could lead to war; standoff can be resolved with "firmness and dialogue."

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, AP
September 25, 2007 16:36
3 minute read.
Bush blasts UNHRC for anti-Israel bias

bush at UN 298.88. (photo credit: )

 
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US President George W. Bush blasted the UN Human Rights Council for singling out Israel while ignoring major human rights violators, in his speech at the opening of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Bush said that for the United States to be credible in standing up for human rights, "the UN must reform its own human rights council." The UN was "silent on repression" in places like Caracas and Teheran while it focused its criticism "excessively on Israel," he said. Bush also mentioned Israel in his reaffirmation of a two-state solution and call for the international community to help by backing Palestinian moderates. "The international community must support these leaders," he said. "In Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Iran, brutal regimes deny their people the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration," Bush said, but otherwise avoided focusing attention on Teheran in his speech. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, however, devoted more attention to the Iranian threat and warned against the Islamic Republic gaining nuclear weapons. The international standoff over Iran's nuclear program will only be resolved with a combination of "firmness and dialogue," and appeasement can only lead to "war," he said. Sarkozy, addressing the UN General Assembly for the first time since becoming president in May, said Teheran was entitled to nuclear power for civilian purposes, "but if we allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, we would incur an unacceptable risk to stability in the region and in the world." "Weakness and renunciation do not lead to peace. They lead to war," Sarkozy declared. "There will not be peace in the world if the international community falters in the face of the proliferation of nuclear arms." The Iranian crisis "will only be resolved if firmness and dialogue go hand-in-hand." UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also referenced the Middle East in his General Assembly speech, saying peace there was vital to the stability of the region and the world. "We know what is required: an end to violence, an end to occupation, the creation of a Palestinian state at peace with itself and Israel, and a comprehensive regional peace between Israel and the Arab world," he said. Also Tuesday, the US Congress moved quickly to signal its disapproval of Ahmadinejad, calling for tighter sanctions against his government and designation of his military as a terrorist group. The swift rebuke was a rare display of bipartisan cooperation in a Congress bitterly divided on the Iraq war. It reflected lawmakers' long-held nervousness regarding Teheran's aggression in the region, particularly toward Israel. "Iran faces a choice between a very big carrot and a very sharp stick," said Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "It is my hope that they will take the carrot. But today, we are putting the stick in place." The House passed, by a 397-16 vote, a proposal by Lantos aimed at blocking foreign investment in Iran, particularly in its energy sector. The bill would bar the US president from waiving sanctions. The House vote was warmly welcomed by AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which had lobbied for the bill. "To change Iran's course, the United States and the international community must use every economic, diplomatic and political tool available," the organization said in a statement. But to become law, the bill would have to be reconciled with any legislation the Senate may pass before going to Bush for signature. Lantos's bill was expected to draw criticism from US allies in Europe. During a visit to Washington last week, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told lawmakers that France opposed any US legislation that would target European countries operating in Iran. He argued that such sanctions could undermine cooperation on dealing with Iran. It was a measure supported, however, by protesters who gathered in front of the UN to protest Iran's nuclear policy and Ahmadinejad's presence at the international gathering. A coalition of Jewish coalitions led a large rally on Monday, while a smaller gathering of perhaps 1,000 Iranian-American protesters congregated in the same spot on Tuesday. They sported signs reading "Stop Iran's Nukes; UN Sanctions Now" and "Ahmadinejad = War and Terror." Iranian-Americans came from across the country to attend the event, and many welcomed the presence of Jewish and Israeli activists who took a similar stand against the current Iranian regime a day earlier. "As long as they are against the Iranian regime, that's good, said Mitra Samani, who stood across from the UN during both Monday and Tuesday's rallies. Samani backed Israeli opposition to Ahmadinejad, who has threatened the Jewish state with destruction. "Israel is their homeland," she said. "They should support their homeland."

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