WASHINGTON - UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner joined the chorus of condemnation following the incendiary speech given by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN racism conference on Monday.
The language employed by Ahmadinejad, the only head of state to attend the 'Durban II' summit in Geneva, prompted delegates from 23 nations to walk out of the UN hall in protest.
Even before the opening session a number influential nations announced they would boycott the summit, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Israel.
The UN secretary general, who did not leave the hall during Ahmadinejad's speech, responded to the controversy in a written statement issued by his office."I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian President to accuse, divide and even incite. This is the opposite of what this conference seeks to achieve," Ban said in the statement.
"It is deeply regrettable that my plea to look to the future of unity was not heeded by the Iranian President." Ban added that he had "reminded the President that the UN General Assembly had adopted the resolutions to revoke the equation of Zionism with racism and to reaffirm the historical facts of the Holocaust respectively."
The French government said the content of the speech made a walkout inevitable.
"The United Nations conference that opened on Monday in Geneva had a goal that should have united and mobilized the international community: the struggle against all forms of racism," said President Nicolas
"The speech given by the President of Iran was the exact opposite: an intolerable appeal to racist hate, it tramples on the ideals and values recorded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown "unreservedly condemned" the "offensive and inflammatory" comments.