All EU delegates apart from the Czech Republic’s have decided to stay on at a UN conference against racism in Geneva despite a controversial speech by the Iranian leader.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prompted a walkout by some and applause from others when he accused Israel of “establishing a cruel and repressive racist regime over the Palestinians”.
Delegates from some 40 countries, including all the EU representatives present, left the room.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon deplored what he called “the Iranian president’s use of the conference to accuse, divide and even incite”.
Ahmadinejad was the first to speak at the conference which runs until Friday.
He has now returned to Iran to what has been officially described as “a sensational welcome”.
“The statements of Ahmadinejad are those of the Iranian nation,” said one Tehran resident. “Israel and the Zionists have proven their racist nature in Gaza, Palestine, Sabra and Shatila and many other places. Basically, they want to oppose Islam.”
Iran does not officially recognise the state of Israel.
While winning the support of conservatives for his anti-Israeli stand, Ahmadinejad has in the past been criticised by moderates at home for questioning the Holocaust.