Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in New York Sunday amid a firestorm of controversy surrounding his visit to the United States.
Ahmadinejad, who has called the Holocaust “a myth,” encouraged the destruction of Israel and supported terrorists in Iraq, will address the United Nations General Assembly and a Columbia University forum but will not be allowed to tour Ground Zero.
The visit also comes as the United States and its European allies continue to urge Iran to stop uranium enrichment. The White House wants to set more economic sanctions against Iran, which it calls a sponsor of terrorism, that is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies those charges.
Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad dismissed the threat of additional economic sanctions Saturday, saying it will not stop his country’s technological progress.
“Those (countries) who assume that decaying methods such as psychological war, political propaganda and the so-called economic sanctions would work and prevent Iran’s fast drive toward progress are mistaken,” Ahmadinejad said at a parade featuring fighter jets.
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city is prepared to respond to busloads of protesters with additional police officers and Secret Service agents.
“We will provide security every place we think it is necessary. That’s our job, and we will do that,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show.
Some students and activist groups blasted Columbia University’s decision to allow Ahmadinejad on campus, but the Ivy League school plans to stick to the schedule.
A student group opposing his speech at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs plans to form a human chain at Ground Zero where Ahmadinejad wanted to lay a wreath. One student called the visit a “dangerous opportunity for him.”
“I really don’t know what President Bollinger was thinking to give him a bully pulpit to discuss his detestable creed,” said Ari Gardner, 22, a member of Hillel, a Jewish student group.
Other efforts to condemn Ahmadinejad’s visit include a full-page ad set to run Monday in The New York Times by Freedom’s Watch. The ad calls him a “terrorist” and blasts Columbia’s decision to allow him to speak.
“People who support killing Americans are welcome. But the military that defends them is not,” says the new ad by Freedom’s Watch.
Ahmadinejad is using America with his visit as a propaganda tool, Brad Blakeman of Freedom’s Watch told FOX News.
“He’s using America, he’s using our democracy as a tool against us,” Blakeman said.