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Iran President Slams Israel, Defends Election Win

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad at the 64th General Assembly on September 23
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad stuck to his script of railing against Israel and the United States in a speech at the United Nations that shed no new light on the Islamic state's nuclear strategy.

Ahmadinejad accused Israel of "inhuman policies" in the Palestinian territories and of dominating world political and economic affairs in his speech to the UN General Assembly, just hours after U.S. President Barack Obama spoke.

Opposition to Israel is one of the cornerstones of belief of Shi'ite Iran, which backs Palestinian and Lebanese Islamic militant groups opposed to peace with the Jewish state.

The Iranian president did not directly mention Tehran's nuclear standoff with the West -- which accuses Iran of covertly trying to acquire atomic bomb. Ahmadinejad said Iran strongly defended its legitimate and legal right -- a phrase he often uses in connection with the right to nuclear power.

Ahmadinejad called for the "eradication of arms race and elimination of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to pave the way for all nations to have access to advanced and peaceful technologies.

"Our nation is prepared to warmly shake all those hands which are honestly extended to us," he said in a speech that lacked the fireworks of his previous appearances at the United Nations, or even that of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi who spoke for an hour and 35 minutes earlier in the day.

Ahmadinejad accused foreign forces of spreading "war, bloodshed, aggression, terror and intimidation" in the Middle East, citing the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Washington accuses Tehran of interference in Iraq by backing Shi'ite militias, and of sponsoring terrorism, including the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Tehran denies the charges.

On Israel

On Israel -- a frequent target of Ahmadinejad's fury -- the Iranian leader said, "The awakening of nations and the expansion of freedom worldwide will no longer allow them to continue their hypocrisy and vicious attitudes."

"How can one imagine that the inhuman policies in Palestine may continue?" he asked. Iran refuses to recognize Israel.

"How can crimes of the occupiers against defenseless women and children and destruction of their homes, farms, hospitals and schools be supported unconditionally by certain governments?"

The Iranian leader said it was time for the world to respond.

"It is no longer acceptable that a small minority would dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks, and establish a new form of slavery, and harm the reputation of other nations, even European nations and the U.S., to attain its racist ambitions," he said.

Several delegations, including that of the United States, left the hall around the time of his comments apparently directed at Israel. The hall remained at least half full throughout the speech, which drew little reaction from delegates.

Ahmadinejad, the target of a protest earlier outside the Iranian mission to the United Nations, appeared to brush off opposition accusations that his re-election in June was a fraud.

"Our nation has gone through a glorious and fully democratic election, opening a new chapter for our country in the march towards national progress and enhanced international interactions," he said.