Iranians on Tuesday called a combative introduction of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by a US university president "shameful" and said the harsh words only added to their image of the United States as a bully.
In a region where the tradition of hospitality outweighs personal opinions toward a person, many here thought Columbia University President Lee Bollinger's aggressive tone - including telling Ahmadinejad that he exhibited the signs of a "petty and cruel dictator" - was over the top.
"The surprising point of last night's meeting is the behavior of the university president. Before a speech by president Ahmadinejad the chancellor criticized President Ahmadinejad, resorting to a statement full of insult, which was mostly Zionists' propaganda against Iran," state-run radio reported.
The chancellors of seven Iranian universities issued a letter on Tuesday to Bollinger saying his statements were "deeply shameful" and invited him to come to Iran.