Protesters rally against Iranian leader outside UN

By Verena Dobnik

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 22 2011 12:45 p.m. MDT

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, left, speaks to the press at an anti-Ahmadinejad rally outside the U.N. headquarters before the controversial Iranian president is scheduled to speak at the U.N. General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in New York.

John Minchillo, Associated Press

NEW YORK — As hundreds of people protested the appearance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said the Obama administration is doing "almost nothing" to protect Iranians from the violence of their own regime.

At the entrance to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the U.N., a same-sex "wedding" was staged mocking the alliance of Syria and Iran. A protester posing as ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi presided over the ceremony, with yellow cake served to onlookers, representing the uranium used to make nuclear weapons.

The pavement of the plaza was covered with huge banners, one of which read: "Down With the Islamic Republic of Iran." Children stomped on a poster of Ahmadinejad.

As Ahmadinejad was about to address the General Assembly, Bolton told The Associated Press that the United States had failed to stop Iran from torturing and killing its own people.

"We expect that our commitment to the people of Iran is going to be upheld," he said. "Right now, the Obama administration is doing almost nothing."

Bolton added that the recent release of two American hikers held for years by Iran was what he called "just Broadway theater."

Some protesters were draped in the Iranian flag, while others hoisted yellow flags representing Iran's political opposition led by Maryam Rajavi, head of the Paris-based main opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Protesters say tens of thousands of the opposition group's supporters in Iran have been executed by the regime.

Speaking live from Paris via satellite on a giant television screen, Rajavi told protesters that Ahmadinejad does not represent the Iranian people.

She urged the U.N. and the U.S. to stand with the Iranian people and their organized opposition, including more than 3,000 U.N.-defined refugees in Camp Ashraf in Iraq, which was attacked twice, with 47 killed and about 1,000 wounded.

"There is no doubt today that the United States has clearly abandoned its international obligations toward Camp Ashraf," Rajavi said.

One group of protesters was busy assembling industrial cardboard rolls into a "cage" resembling the one that held former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at his trial. Inside the cage was a protester wearing a mask resembling Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"We hope that Khameini will be in a cage like this soon, to be tried for crimes against humanity," said Farid Ashkan, 55, an Iranian-born New York dentist.

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