The Durban Review Conference kicked off this morning with some opening statements from the Secretary General and the Commissioner for Human Rights. After selecting a president for the conference and working out some logistical issues, we're on to the main event -- the "high-level segment," where heads of state and other political figures give 7-minute speeches. Up first? Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.
I'm sitting here in the press box at the conference. Ahmedinejad just walked in.
There seems to be some confusion. He is walking to the seat of the Iranian delegation, not the stage. The chair of the conference seems confused. Ok, now he is finally being escorted to the podium. He begins speaking, thanking Allah.
Some activists are interrupting his speech. They are wearing clown wigs and red noses, and yelling "Racist! Racist" There seem to be three of them, in different parts of the hall. They've been escorted out by security guards. There is a loud applause, though it is unclear whether they are clapping for the activists or the guards.
He continues speaking through the whole fiasco. He is taking a lot of time to thank Allah and his prophets.
Now we're getting a lecture on the history of war, ending with WWII. He transitions into an indictment of the Security Council, questioning the motives of superpowers giving themselves veto powers. Enough of the subtlety -- he condemns their role in the creation of the state of Israel, and starts ripping into Zionism.
The EU is walking out! The entire France, Bulgarian, and Hungarian delegation just walked out. I think others walked out too -- can't see their placards. The press box is going crazy. The entire hall has erupted in applause -- some applauding the delegate who walked out, some applauding Ahemdinejad for continuing his anti-Israel tirade.
Ahmediniejad continues, condemning "the most racist regime," a litany of generic Israel canards. A group of Israeli students start yelling "Racist! Racist!" from the viewing gallery. No one seems to be stopping them. Two Iranian women in hijabs start waving their fists at them. After a few minutes, security finally arrives and escorts out one of the Israel students. Now another one has started yelling "Facist! Facist!"
Ahmediniejad is now ripping into America for invading Iraq. The usual stuff about arrogance and racism.
Now he's blaming the global economic crisis on the US. He's condeming US's selfishness and lack of transparency. He's even condemning the bank bailout plan!
Now he's veered into banal pronouncements about ignorance and history and racism and the creation of the universe and worshipping god.
Oops, he's back to Israel! "A kind of racism that has tarnished the image of humanity ... The word Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuses religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces." And Jews control the media! And the major world powers! "Cultural endeavors are not enough. Efforts must be made to put an end to efforts made by Zionists and their supporters. ... Governments must be encouraged in their efforts and their fights to eradicate this barbaric racism."
Another protestor starts shouting from the plenary floor. He is quickly apprehended and silenced.
Now A-jad is talking about a changing of the global order, and the upending of traditional power structures. "Western liberalism and capitalism, like communism, has reached to its end since it has failed to perceive the truth of the world and humanity as it is."
Another protestor starts yelling "Racist!" and is quickly escorted out. Two hijab-clad women start waving and blowing kisses to A-jad.
Now he is back to the Security Council, calling for the elimination of the "discriminatory veto right." Some generic language about love and happiness and cooperation and overhauling the global monetary system. And finally, "Let us all join hands in amity ... in fulfillment of a decent new world." Amen.
UPDATE: The foreign minister of Norway is up next, and he is calling out A-jad, whose speech he says "threatens the very focus of the conference." The declaration of this conference included "the need to protect against incitement to hatred. I heard the messages inside the president's speech. I heard incitement and hatred. This is not a finger-pointing exercise. The president has made Iran the odd man out, and Norway will not accept the odd man out hijacking the efforts of the many. ... We cannot surrender the floor of the United Nations to extremism." Huge applause erupts in the hall.
[NOTE: My transcription is rough. I will update when official transcript is released.]