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Ahmadinejad Speech Prompts Israel Delegation to Walk Out of UN General Assembly

On Monday at the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ignored the warnings of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by delivering a controversial address. Speaking about the tense situation between Iran and Israel over the former's nuclear program before the speech, Ahmadinejad told reporters, "Iran has been around for the last seven, 10 thousand years. [The Israelis] have been occupying those territories for the last 60 to 70 years, with the support and force of the Westerners. They have no roots there in history." His subsequent speech railed against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and prompted the Israeli UN delegation to walk out. 

Tensions between Iran and Israel have escalated in recent years to due the existence of what Iran says is a nuclear program for civilian use, but what Israel calls an attempt to become a nuclear military power. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly intimated that Israel reserves the right to launch a preventive attack on Iran if the Islamic Republic is on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon. For its part, Israel is the only state in the Middle East with nuclear weapons — a fact Israel has never recognized. Israel, India, and Pakistan are the only three countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

The U.S. delegation remained, despite its having walked out with Israel during past speeches by Ahmahdinejad at the General Assembly. That they decided not to join the Israelis this year may be a subtle rebuke of Netanyahu's criticism of the Obama administration's handling of the Iran situation.

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