Under increasing attack over his country's suspected nuclear weapons program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that Teheran was ready to meet conciliation with conciliation.
Ahmadinejad spoke to a half-empty chamber as he sought to cast himself as a beleaguered champion of the developing world, that he portrayed as under attack from rapacious capitalism.
At the same time, the Iranian leader issued stinging attacks on Israel, the United States and the West, without calling them by name. When he accused Israel of committing a genocide in Gaza, he prompted a walkout by several delegates, including those of Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, France, the UK, Italy and Germany. The Spanish and Bulgarian representatives remained in the chamber, according to Army Radio.
Representatives of the US, Israel and Canada were already outside the hall, having boycotted the speech in protest of Ahmadinejad's persistent denial of the Holocaust.
Moments before he spoke, foreign ministers of six global powers told reporters on the sidelines of the General Assembly that they expected Iran to come clean about its nuclear program. Tougher sanctions against Iran are being considered if talks between the powers and Iran on the issue, set for October 1, fail to yield results.
The Iranian president made only a passing reference to the nuclear issue in his speech, with a call for global nuclear disarmament.
At times, Ahmadinejad struck a softer tone, declaring that Teheran was "prepared to warmly shake all those hands which are honestly extended to us." He peppered his speech with religious references, invoking the prophets of Judaism and Christianity, as well as Islam.
Yet most of the speech focused on his usual themes - scathing verbal attacks on archenemies Israel and the West.
He assailed Israel for what he said was a "barbaric" attack on the Gaza Strip last winter, and claimed that the "brutalities in Gaza have not all been published."
"The international community is impatiently waiting for the murderers of the defenseless people of Gaza," he said, in reference to alleged war crimes by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead.
He also called for a "free referendum" in "Palestine," which he said would allow "all Palestinians - including Christians, Muslims and Jews" to live together in peace.
In an apparent anti-Semitic reference, Ahmadinejad complained that a "small minority" controls politics, economics and culture across much of the world.
He condemned the US-led war in Afghanistan and attacks inside Pakistan. He also accused the West of hypocrisy, saying it preached democracy, but violated its fundamental principles.
Ahmadinejad portrayed Iran as a defender of poor countries, lashed out at unbridled capitalism which he said has reached the end of the road and will suffer the same fate as Marxism.
Turning to domestic affairs, Ahmadinejad insisted he won by a "large majority" in June elections. Pro-reform opposition politicians have alleged electoral fraud, and Ahmadinejad has been at the center of political turmoil since then.
On Thursday, a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution calling for a more intense global campaign to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation. It does not name countries, but refers to previous resolutions that imposed sanctions on Iran and North Korea.