The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, faced a series of walkouts at the United Nations general assembly last night after launching a renewed attack on Israel, which he accused of genocide, barbarism and racism.
Within minutes of his criticism of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, delegations from various countries began to rise from their seats and noisily left the chamber.
Many other countries had left before he even began, partly because it was the evening and partly in protest over his brutal crackdown on the Iranian opposition after June's election and partly over comments last week again questioning whether the Holocaust had taken place.
When he finished, he was given a loud round of applause by many of those still in the chamber.
During a 35-minute speech, he asked: "How can one allow the inhumane behaviour in Palestine to continue?" The Israelis had occupied Palestinian land and the international community portrayed the victims as terrorists, he said.
The Palestinians had suffered from attacks on defenceless women and children, seen their homes destroyed and faced an economic blockade in Gaza that amounted to genocide. He described Israeli attacks on Gaza as barbaric.
He suggested that Israel could get away with this because of extensive lobbying and political influence in the US and Europe. "It is unacceptable that a small minority should dominate large parts of the world through a complex network in the US and Europe to retain its racist ambitions," Ahmadinejad said.
Outside the UN, hundreds of protesters wearing the green of the Iranian opposition demonstrated against Ahmadinejad over his domestic crackdown and allegations that he had rigged the election results.
On domestic affairs, Ahmadinejad insisted he won a "large majority" in June elections. Pro-reform opposition politicians have alleged electoral fraud, and Ahmadinejad has been at the centre of political turmoil since then. "Our nation has gone through a glorious and fully democratic election, opening a new chapter for our country in the march towards national progress and enhanced international interactions," he said, adding that Iranian voters "entrusted me once more with a large majority".
Ahmadinejad, on his fifth visit to the general assembly, appeared to revel in his status as the pariah-in-chief for US and European governments.
As well as attacking Israel, he appeared to criticise President Barack Obama, suggesting that some of his policies were not fundamentally different from George Bush. "Attacks on Afghanistan and Pakistan are still going on. Guantánamo has still not been closed and there are still secret prisons in Europe," he said.
At times, Ahmadinejad struck a softer tone, declaring that Tehran was "prepared to warmly shake all those hands which are honestly extended to us."
He peppered his speech with religious references, invoking the prophets of Judaism and Christianity, as well as Islam.
He began speaking only minutes after a meeting ended at the UN to discuss Iran's nuclear programme.
The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, met her counterparts from the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China to discuss talks with Iran planned for next week and the possibility of expanding sanctions against Tehran if it refuses to comply with demands to drop its uranium enrichment programme. Iran denies it is seeking a nuclear weapon.
Ahmadinejad made no reference to Iran's nuclear programme last night.
As well as his speech to the general assembly, he gave a round of interviews yesterday to CBS television and the Associated Press, in which he refused to acknowledge the Holocaust and asked what it had to do with the Palestinians.
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