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Iranians at home and abroad evaluate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's UN speech

Some Iranian observers say Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was bombastic during his United Nations speech to maintain his tough image at home.

By Roshanak TaghaviCorrespondent / September 24, 2010

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during a news conference in New York, on Sept. 24.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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Washington

For much of the United Nations General Assembly this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the talk of New York, with his boisterous commentary dominating headlines as he sat down for interviews with some of America's most prominent journalists.

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Since arriving in the United States Sunday, Mr. Ahmadinejad has delivered a mélange of seemingly contradictory public and private speeches. His infamously fiery rhetoric at this week's UN General Assembly meetings focused – as usual – on external political issues such as nuclear proliferation, the perpetrators of 9/11, the “death” of capitalism, and the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As expected, he was heavily criticized.

Less bombastic in interviews

But at private receptions and during one-on-one interviews, Ahmadinejad sought to soften the international community's view of Iran, counterbalancing the impact of his boisterous public commentary with a more conciliatory tone.

This tactic served to convey a message to the US and the rest of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) that Iran wants to restart direct negotiations over its nuclear program, without undermining the president's public image as a fearless, outspoken leader in the eyes of Iranians.

For now, it appears that Ahmadinejad's strategy of mollifying his domestic critics by balancing his “softness” in New York with his trademark “toughness” may have worked.

“The subjects the president chose to speak about at the United Nations General Assembly and in his interview with Larry King were very wise [choices],” Ahmad Tavakoli, a high-profile principlist member of Iranian Parliament and a government critic, told the Fars News Agency today.

General Assembly speech

In his highly anticipated speech to the General Assembly Thursday, Ahmadinejad once again touched a nerve, prompting US representatives to walk out in protest after he asserted the possibility that the United States played a role in 9/11 in order to create an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

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