WASHINGTON - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will face a tough crowd during his visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.
Ahmadinejad has invited many guests, among them Jews, to a dinner party Thursday night but is expected to receive a meager response, as organizations and academia members plan to boycott the dinner in protest of the Iranian government's violent oppression of protests on the streets of Tehran following the June 12 elections.
Iran's delegation to the UN has sent out invitations to professors and research fellows who have attended Ahmadinejad's events in the past, as well as Jewish organizations, but all declined the invitation.
As part of his efforts to improve Iran's image, Ahmadinejad will arrive in New York accompanied by the only Jewish Iranian serving in his parliament. He has also agreed to an interview with NBC, which will be broadcast Thursday night.
The Washington Times reported that other invitees chose to boycott the event, and that those who have agreed to show up will only do so in order to protest Iran's violations of human rights.
Jim Walsh, an expert on international security at MIT, announced that he is planning to attend the event in order to ask the president about the arrest of his Iranian colleagues, with whom he has been in touch for the past few years.
Iranians living in the United States also urged foreign diplomats at the UN to walk out of the assembly hall during Ahmadinejad's speech.
Secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, called on the president to prove Iran's nuclear program has peaceful intentions. During a news conference at the UN headquarters in New York, Ban said he has urged the Iranian president to allow foreign inspectors to review Tehran's nuclear program.
In his past visits to New York, Ahmadinejad received invites to Columbia University as well as other prestigious institutions. This time, however, his mailbox has remained empty and he is expected to face harsh protests.
New York is also preparing for the visit of Libya's president, Muammar Gaddafi, who was slammed by the US administration after holding a welcoming reception for a convicted terrorist involved in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland.
UN historian Stanley Meisler said that Ahmadinejad and Gaddafi's visits are the most controversial since that of Yasser Arafat in 1974 and Fidel Castro in 1995.
Protests are expected to take place in front of the UN building, along First Avenue.