Delegations from the United States, the European Union and other countries have walked out of the United Nations in protest after Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad suggested in a speech that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks may have been orchestrated by elements within the U.S. government.
Even before Ahmadinejad finished his speech to the UN General Assembly on September 23, the U.S. mission to the UN released a statement condemning the Iranian leader's comments as "vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable."
The White House said President Barack Obama found the comments "utterly outrageous and offensive" -- especially as Ahmadinejad delivered them in New York City, where the World Trade Center towers collapsed as a result of the September 11 attacks.
The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton described the Iranian leader's comments as "outrageous and unacceptable."
In addition to the U.S. and EU, other countries that walked out of the speech are reported to include Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Costa Rica.
In his comments, Ahmadinejad said segments of the U.S. government may have been involved in carrying out the September 11 attacks in order to improve the U.S. economy, increase U.S. influence in the Middle East, and assure Israel's survival.
The Iranian president also presented two other theories -- that the attacks were carried out by a "powerful and complex terrorist group" which had been able to penetrate U.S. intelligence and defenses; and that the attacks were perpetrated by what he called "a terrorist group" whose activities were exploited by American government officials.
U.S. officials have said the September 11 airliner suicide hijacking attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, were carried out by operatives of the Al-Qaeda network led by Osama bin Laden.
compiled from agency reports