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Qaddafi, Ahmadinejad face protests at UN

The "bad boys" of the international stage, Iran's President Ahmadinejad, Libya's Colonel Qaddafi, and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, face more opposition than usual this time.

By Staff writer / September 23, 2009

United Nations, NY

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is accustomed to a raucous reception when he attends the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

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But the climate awaiting Mr. Ahmadinejad and the other bad boys of the international political stage – Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi, who is visiting the US and the UN for the first time, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez – promises to be even more negative than usual this year.

Ahmadinejad arrives after months of bloody political unrest at home, following a contested reelection in June that has left the international human rights community firmly opposed to his regime. Qaddafi hits the New York tarmac with emotions still raw over the recent release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel al-Megrahi to a hero's welcome in Tripoli. And Mr. Chavez continues to rack up international opposition over his actions at home squelching freedom of speech, and over his perceived meddling in next door neighbor Colombia's affairs.

"Of course the reaction to Ahmadinejad's visit is going to be much worse and bigger than last year," says Sahand Khoshbaten, an organizer with the "No to Ahmadinejad committee," which expects to nearly double the number of protesters who will shout epithets at the Iranian president as he arrives this morning at UN headquarters. "This man is responsible for the repression of the Iranian people, and people everywhere know about that."

A popular US president

Another explanation for the more negative response to the three is the exit of President Bush and the arrival on the UN stage of President Obama. Previously, the presence at the UN of an unpopular American president made the anti-American views of Ahmadinejad and Chavez more palatable. Ahmadinejad had meetings with US peace groups opposed to the war in Iraq, and he spoke at Columbia University last year. Chavez drew laughter and nods of approval when, following Bush to the General Assembly podium by a day in 2006, he quipped that he could still smell the sulfur of the devil.