Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shifted his tone from explosive to relatively reconciliatory at the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday while his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Morsi, in his debut address, called for a negotiated settlement in Syria, which countered with the comments of the Qatari leader who called for armed intervention to end the crisis.
In a welcome change from past years, there was no mass walkout from the chamber during Ahmadinejad’s address since he exercised restraint in his anti-Israeli rhetoric, but not without calling the Israeli government a “fake” regime and Zionists “uncivilized.”
He said the history of mankind would have been much more “beautiful and pleasant” had there been “integrity and honesty” in the international relations and called for equality in decision-making for countries not aligned with the major power blocs. He called 9/11 “tragic” and said Iran was committed to peace, and called for a new world order not dominated by Western powers in the service of “the devil.”
He condemned the "arms race and intimidation by nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction by the hegemonic powers," adding that Iran was facing a security threat, referring to the tensions with the West over Tehran's alleged clandestine nuclear weapons program.
"Continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality," he said. "A state of mistrust has cast its shadow on the international relations, while there is no trusted or just authority to help resolve world conflicts."
Delegations from the U.S., Israel and Canada did not attend the address, though their counterparts from allied nations such as France and Britain did.
The plaza near the U.N. Assembly Hall in New York witnessed protests against the Iranian government during Ahmadinejad’s address, which coincided with the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.
Morsi opposed foreign military intervention in Syria, but reiterated support for the Syrian people. “After the current regime comes to an end - the regime that kills its people day and night - the Syrian people will choose, with their own freewill, a regime that represents it and places Syria in its right place among democratic countries," he said.
In the light of recent protests that raged among Muslim communities across the world over an anti-Islamic movie made in the U.S., Morsi voiced Egypt’s support for freedom of expression.
"Freedom of expression that is not used to incite hatred against anyone. Not a freedom of expression that targets a specific religion or a specific culture,” he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said “a future of Syria is a future without Assad,” while speaking about the Arab Spring in his address for the assembly.
"The Arab Spring has also brought progress in Egypt where the democratically-elected president has asserted civilian control over the military, in Yemen and Tunisia where elections have also brought new governments to power and in Morocco where there's a new constitution and a prime minister appointed on the basis of a popular vote for the first time."
Criticizing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Cameron said: “Assad has colluded with those in Iran who are set on dragging the region to a wider conflict.”
"The blood of these young children is a terrible stain on this United Nations,” he said. “And in particular, it is a stain on those who have failed to stand up to these atrocities and in some cases aided and abetted Assad's regime of terror.”
At a meeting of the U.N. Security Council Wednesday, during the 67th general assembly, the head of the Arab League Nabil Elaraby called on the international community to criminalize blasphemy or acts that insult or cause offense to religions.
"While we fully reject such actions that are not justifiable in any way, we would like to ring the warning bell," Elaraby was quoted saying by the Associated Press. "We are warning that offending religions, faiths and symbols is indeed a matter that threatens in international peace and security now."
"If the international community has criminalized bodily harm, it must just as well criminalize psychological and spiritual harm," he said. "The League of Arab States calls for the development of an international legal framework which is binding ... in order to confront insulting religions and ensuring that religious faith and its symbols are respected."
The U.S. and Russia presented diametrically opposite assessments of the Syrian situation which highlighted the rift between the two nations. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned Assad for the state-sponsored violence while Russian foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the U.S. and its European and Arab allies for encouraging terrorism, without mentioning any country by name.