UNGA president: US demonizing Iran

Asked about Ahmadinejad saying he wants to wipe Israel off the map, d'Escoto says "words don't kill."

dEscoto Brockmann 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
dEscoto Brockmann 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The outspoken president of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday accused the United States of demonizing Iran's president and criticized the International Criminal Court for issuing an arrest warrant for Sudan's leader for war crimes in Darfur. Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, a Roman Catholic priest from Nicaragua with openly leftist views, also reiterated that the more he thinks about the conditions that Israel imposes on the Palestinians, the more he tends "to think about apartheid." During a wide-ranging press conference, d'Escoto insisted he wasn't being divisive or promoting his own agenda - but was just fulfilling his duty as president of the 192-member General Assembly to uphold the UN Charter and promote peace and non-violence. Briefing reporters on his recent three-week trip that included a stop in Teheran, d'Escoto said he was struck by the great support and respect for Iran from its neighbors at a summit meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization - a regional body founded in 1985 by Iran, Turkey and Pakistan - especially for helping "to alleviate the plight" of Afghan refugees in Iran. "That was a very wonderful experience to see that, in contrast to the attitude that we find, sadly, here where we are," d'Escoto said. "I don't think anyone can doubt that in our part of the world ... [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad has been demonized," he said. "The United States has been in the business of the demonization of people forever and the canonization of the worst of dictators." D'Escoto singled out Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Nicaragua's Anastasio Samoza and Chile's Augusto Pinochet. Asked whether he approved of Ahmadinejad saying he wants to wipe a UN member state - Israel - off the map, d'Escoto said "if he said that, it's lamentable," but he quickly added that "words as such don't kill" and it's the actions that have to be watched. "I don't hate Israel, much less do I hate the Jewish people," d'Escoto added. "In fact they are very high on my list of people that I love." But he said that won't keep him from criticizing Israeli actions, especially in the recent IDF operation in Gaza. D'Escoto served as foreign minister in the 1980s during the rule of the Sandinistas, who aligned themselves with Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union. Since assuming the one-year General Assembly presidency in September, he has been a stern critic of the United States, and of Israel. He criticized the United States on Tuesday for acting on its own rather than multilaterally as the UN Charter calls for, and singled out former President George W. Bush for going to war in Iraq in 2003 without Security Council approval and for then accusing the Sudanese government of committing genocide in Darfur. "The United States dares to stick its tongue out to the Security Council and says you either give me the green light to commit the aggression that I want to commit, or I shall declare you obsolete, irrelevant," d'Escoto said. Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the US Mission to the United Nations, when asked to comment on the criticism of the US, said: "It's hard to make sense of Mr. D'Escoto's increasingly bizarre statements." D'Escoto called the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity "unfortunate" and "lamentable" because the African Union and the Arab League had asked the Security Council to delay the warrant for a year to pursue peace efforts in Darfur. "It helps to deepen the perception that international justice is racist because this is the third time that you have something from the ICC, and for the third time it has to do with Africa," d'Escoto said. Answering critics who said it's not his role to speak out against the court over the warrants for the Sudanese leader, d'Escoto noted that Bush "first raised the issue of genocide" in Darfur. "That should tell you quite a bit already," he said. "Can you imagine [Chicago gangster] Al Capone phoning the police to say that somebody stole milk from the market? It's Al Capone standing up for uprightness." D'Escoto said the United Nations needs the United States "but it needs a United States with it, not against it, a United States committed to multilateralism, a United Nations committed to respecting the sovereign equality of all member states." He said it was "very good" that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had raised the possibility of Iran attending a meeting on Afghanistan on March 31 in the Netherlands. "If they're invited, they will participate ... that's what I gather," d'Escoto said.