Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in New York on Sunday for the 62nd annual UN General Assembly as critics protested his planned speech at Columbia University and UN visit.
Behind the scenes US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues working to promote a possible third round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran as a response to its advancing nuclear program.
Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni, who is also in New York, has spoken out harshly against the divisive visit. "In a just world, his visit would never have been authorized and Iran would not be a member of the United Nations," said Livni.
"For Ahmadinejad to come here - the UN should be ashamed. It is shameful for a world that does not understand that Ahmadinejad is exploiting international values to harm us all. This will not come without a price. The world must put an end to this. The world cannot allow a nuclear Iran," she said."
Livni met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad later Sunday evening, the first such meeting since Israel declared the Gaza Strip a "hostile entity" last week.
Recently appointed Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki also participated in the meeting. Rice is also scheduled to meet with special Mideast envoy Tony Blair ahead of their participation in a meeting for nations aiding the Palestinian Authority.
'He should be arrested here'
Meanwhile elected officials demonstrating at Columbia claimed the Iranian leader is trying to obtain nuclear weapons, is a Holocaust denier and rules his country with an iron fist. As such, they said, he should not be allowed a platform to preach his beliefs from.
The university defended the decision to allow Ahmadinejad to speak as a matter of free speech.
''He should be arrested when he comes to Columbia University, not invited to speak for God's sake,'' said state Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
City Councilman David Weprin said Ahmadinejad ''has American blood on his hands as he has aided the insurgency in Iraq by sending weapons and manpower for the sole purpose to kill Americans.''
''Here we take a tyrant like this and say, 'Sure, come. We understand that you continue your nuclear proliferation. We understand that you've denied the Holocaust. We understand that you want to obliterate Israel. But come. Let us give you an invitation to free speech,''' said demonstrator Claire Meadow, a
Columbia Law School graduate.
Demonstrations are scheduled to take place in and around Columbia during Ahmadinejad's speech while at the same time major Jewish organizations will protest outside the UN headquarters.
News agencies contributed to this report