NEW YORK - "I'm encouraged by the rhetoric I've heard, but also concerned in view of the rhetoric I will yet hear," President Shimon Peres said on Tuesday at the UN General Assembly in New York after hearing the speeches given by US President George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Peres, who is representing Israel at the event, spoke with reporters ahead of the scheduled address by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "The messages we've heard until now were ones of hope – but I have already had time to read and take in the speech the Iranian president is set to deliver. This is an address that calls for a regression to a darker time, of hate, hostility and a lack respect for the most basic of human rights.
"Ahmadinejad believes he is the supreme authority on world affairs, but he has no right to decide who is good and who is evil. The reality is that the children of all religions, colors and nationalities were created equal," said Peres.
"We have never called for the destruction of another country," added Peres when asked what message he would like to convey to the Iranian president.
"We do not see the Iranian people as our enemy. We have an extensive history with them, King Cyrus was the first Zionist." Peres was referring to Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian empire who allowed exiled Jews to return to the land of Israel from Babylonian captivity and issued a decree ordering the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Protest against Ahmadinejad in NYC (Photo: Shahar Ezran)
Peres was also asked whether he intended to raise the necessity of other options in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat, should economic sanctions fail.
"The other option is the issue of oil and its price. The overblown price of oil funds global terrorism. Those seeking to dry out the terrorism swamp and eradicate its mosquitoes must put an end to the price frenzy. Just like the sellers are organized, so must the consumers band together."
'Stop child executions'
Meanwhile hundreds of Jewish demonstrators assembled in front of the United Nations building in New York to protest Ahmadinejad's address. The demonstrators also cried out against the Iranian system of punishment, which has gained ill repute over the years by condemning a number of underage offenders to death.
According to data provided by Amnesty International, 140 juveniles have been executed in Iran since 1990 - 26 of them since Ahmadinejad came to power—with a further 71 on death row.
According to the protest organizers, “Stop Child Executions,” these executions violate international law, which establishes prison as the maximum sentence for minors.
The organization’s founder, Iranian expatriate and former Miss Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam, said, “Change in Iran will not come through war and bombs; that’s exactly what Ahmadinejad wants.
Change will only come from a revolt by the Iranian people, backed by the West, which needs to cry out today on behalf of these children and against Iran’s violation of human rights.”