Iranian President to Speak at Columbia University

By: Yunji de Nies, ABC News
By: Yunji de Nies, ABC News

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began his visit to the U.S. on Sept. 23 amid much controversy.

Protesting is already underway at Columbia University, where he is expected to speak on Sept. 24.

He is a man the State Department says leads a country that sponsors terrorism and on Sept. 23, he arrived in New York City.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will spend two days in the U.S., to attend a United Nations General Assembly meeting.

He wanted to lay a wreath at ground zero.

The NYPD turned him down, citing security concerns.

"This invitation is a slap in the face of all New Yorkers," said David Weprin, New York City councilman.

Protesters lined the gates of Columbia University, where the Iranian leader will address students and faculty.

Ahmadinejad denies the holocaust and has called for the destruction of Israel.

Critics say inviting him to speak is outrageous.

"His country has put itself into a war that we're having in Iraq. He has sent weapons and he has sent men to train for the use of those weapons, and those weapons are killing Americans as we speak," assured Steve Malzburg, a radio talk show host.

The university had planned a similar event with Ahmadinejad last year, but canceled under pressure. This time, they say the forum will go on.

"We need to know more about this guy, what he stands for and what his views are. We need to challenge them whenever we can," explained Dean John Coatsworth, with Columbia University.

Most students agree.

"I think it's important for these men and women to have a platform to speak their minds and let us students challenge those ideas," Columbia student Aaron Bliese said.

In an interview with the CBS program, "60 Minutes," Ahmadinejad was asked if Iran is supplying weapons to insurgents in Iraq.

He avoided a direct answer, saying quote, "We don't need to do that." is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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