WATCH: As Ahmadinejad addressed the UN General Assembly, U.S. diplomats rose from their seats and left the hall, followed by delegations from some two dozen other Western countries. (AP video)
UNITED NATIONS -- Several hundred people gathered outside United Nations headquarters in New York to protest the appearance of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly.
The rally was organized by the Association of Iranian-Americans in New York and took place on Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across from the sprawling UN complex on the East River. Speakers included former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton.
Demonstrators hung banners and posters with anti-Ahmadinejad slogans and facts about the Islamic republic's dismal human rights record. Protesters chanted, "Down With The Islamic Republic! Down With Ahmadinejad!"
Sattar Deldar, the president of a North American-based Persian language TV channel, Appadana TV, told RFE/RL that the protest was aimed at showing opposition to the Iranian regime and solidarity with those it oppresses, not at disrupting the General Assembly.
"Every year we see that American people support the Iranian people," Deldar said. "So this is great. We don't want to get involved in the UN and the UN policy, but [we are] the people thinking different. So we came to show real people what they are thinking about the Iranian government. That's all."
The protest's highlight was a mock wedding ceremony between Ahmadinejad and his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad, who is currently leading a brutal crackdown on his own people. Libya's ousted leader Muammar Qaddafi officiated.
The mock wedding ceremony between Ahmadinejad and Syria's Assad, with Muammar Qaddafi officiating.
Meanwhile, inside the General Assembly hall, Ahmadinejad was delivered an especially fierce speech against the United States and the West, prompting a mass walkout by Western delegations.
Ahmadinejad accused the United States of a long list of grievances, including slavery, wars, use of nuclear weapons, and support for military dictatorships and totalitarian regimes in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Ahmadinejad speaks to the UN General Assembly.
For the seventh year in a row, Ahmadinejad used the annual UN forum to publicly question the 2001 terror attack on the United States, referring to it as the "mysterious September 11 accident." He also called it a "pretext" for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a general blast at the West, he said, "Hypocrisy and deceit are allowed in order to secure their interests and imperialistic goal."
The Iranian leader, who has before called for the destruction of Israel, also described the Jewish Holocaust as an "excuse to pay fine and ransom to the Zionists."
About halfway into the 30-minute speech, the American delegation rose from their seats and left the hall. Delegations from more than two dozen Western nations followed.
The White House dismissed the Iranian leader's remarks and accused Tehran of the "vile mistreatment" of its own citizens.
One French diplomat tweeted "unacceptable" before he left the hall.
The German delegation said it left the assembly because of the "crude, anti-American, anti-Israeli, and anti-West tirade by the Iranian president."
President Barack Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, told reporters, "I find it rich that the Iranian president would have such criticism."
written by Nikola Krastev
Protesters chanted, "Down With The Islamic Republic! Down With Ahmadinejad!"