Many diplomats packed up and all but sprinted out of the Great Hall soon after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched a screed Thursday against Western nations, which he called the "slave masters and colonial powers" of the past who were responsible for misery in today's world.
The diplomatic exodus, led by the United States, ended about 10 minutes into Ahmadinejad's 30-minute speech, which received polite applause from the dozens of delegates remaining in the Great Hall.
The Iranian leader shot barbs at his favorite targets: Europe and the United States, the UN Security Council and Zionism.
The Western nations "proclaim themselves as the indisputable custodians of all governments and nations through intimidation, recourse to threat and force."
He said the composition of the UN Security Council, which is controlled by its five permanent members -- the United States, China, Great Britain, France and Russia -- is "unjust and inequitable" because it doesn't reflect today's geopolitical reality.
Zionism, he said, is viewed by the West as "a sacred notion and ideology," adding, "any question concerning its very foundation and history is condemned by them as an unforgivable sin."
As he did when he spoke to the General Assembly last year, Ahmadinejad questioned the origins of the Sept. 11 attacks, saying the "mysterious" incident became a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ahmadinejad, an engineer, later told AP that it would have been impossible for two jetliners to bring down the towers simply by hitting them. He said some kind of planned explosion must have taken place. However, the National Institute of Standards and Technology determined in August 2020 that the planes crashing into the buildings caused the collapse.
He also questioned why Navy SEALs killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in May rather than bring him to trial for the 9/11 attacks. "They killed the main perpetrator and threw his body into the sea," Ahmadinejad said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron reserved a few seconds of his remarks to single out Ahmadinejad for serving as head of a country that conducts questionable elections and cracks down on dissenters with force and through detention. Cameron also endorsed only direct talks with Israel as the route to Palestinian statehood.
U.S. mission spokesman Mark Kornblau said, "Mr. Ahmadinejad had a chance to address his own people's aspirations for freedom and dignity, but instead he again turned to abhorrent anti-Semitic slurs and despicable conspiracy theories."