Jewish groups were scrambling on Wednesday to develop strategies for protesting next week's likely New York visit of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian leader has requested a visa to attend the U.N.-sponsored Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Obama administration officials hope the meeting will strengthen the 1970 pact as they wrestle with how to enlist international support for tough sanctions aimed at thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said “There are conversations taking place about what is doable and what is not” to protest Ahmadinejad's visit. “But there isn't much time to plan anything.”
He said the ADL will begin calling its diplomatic contacts on Thursday and urge their nations to walk out if Ahmadinejad is allowed to address the gathering.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley confirmed the request and said there are no grounds to bar Ahmadinejad from the country.
“We have certain responsibilities as the host of the UN,” he said at Wednesday's press briefing. “Any foreign official who’s coming to the UN for official business is normally granted a visa...If the Iranians will have a delegation at the NPT conference on Monday and, if they choose to have the president lead that delegation, that’s their decision.”
He also said that if the Iranian leader does attend, “we want to see him play a constructive role in the upcoming NPT Review Conference. This is about... our commitment to strengthening the Nonproliferation Treaty, strengthening the capabilities and resources available to the IAEA. We want to see nations reaffirm their commitment to the treaty, and we would certainly hope that President Ahmadinejad or whoever leads the Iranian delegation will come to New York prepared to make that commitment.”
The Washington Post reported that “U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters at a luncheon Wednesday that it would be 'helpful' if the Iranian leader came to New York with some 'constructive proposal to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue.' But he said he is 'unaware of any concrete ideas' Ahmadinejad intended to unveil before the nuclear conference.”
There are reports the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will poll member agencies about possible protest activities – and that some Jewish groups are considering civil disobedience to draw attention to the Iran issue and the sluggish international response.
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