NEW YORK (AP) — An Iranian diplomat was escorted from a Manhattan street by New York police Wednesday after he was surrounded and threatened by an angry mob of protesters near the United Nations.
Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was walking near the United Nations when he was noticed and confronted by the angry mob on Second Avenue near East 48th Street, said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. He flagged down police officers, who helped him get to a safe spot. Browne said the threats were believed to have been verbal.
The incident followed a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the U.N. General Assembly. Outside the building, thousands of anti-Ahmadinejad demonstrators rallied in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza opposite the world body.
Ahmadinejad, known for past fiery denunciations of the United States and Israel, said before the General Assembly that there is a “continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation.”
Outside, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who ran for president earlier this year, challenged President Barack Obama to take stronger action against Iran as it threatens to become a nuclear power. However, he did praise the Obama administration for recently taking the Iranian dissident group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, off the U.S. terrorist watch list. The group is a major anti-Ahmadinejad force that was allied with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.
A coalition of Iranian-American groups organized the protest against Ahmadinejad — one of the largest gatherings staged against the Iranian leader in recent years during the General Assembly.
Speakers included high-profile U.S. politicians including two former U.S. ambassadors to the U.N., Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy.
Alireza Miryusefi, a spokesman for Iran’s U.N. Mission, in a text message attributed the aggression of the protesters toward Mehmanparast to the MEK.
The “MEK is going to be delisted and you can expect such a aggressive behavior of a terrorist sect. It would be another wrong step by U.S. administration. The responsibility of protecting all diplomats is on behalf of government of USA.”
Protesters wore yellow vests with photos of people they say were massacred. One sign read: “Fallen for Freedom in Iran.”
Maryam Rajavi, an Iranian politician who heads the Paris-based National Council of Resistance, which opposes the Islamic regime, spoke to the protesters from France via satellite on a giant screen.
The MEK is the main component of Rajavi’s organization. The group was disarmed by U.S. soldiers during the Iraq invasion in 2003 and has since renounced violence.
Alex Mohammed, 40, a restaurant manager from Chicago, stood next to a mock jail cage with a noose next to it, and a cartoon of Ahmadinejad standing under a series of hanged Iranians’ legs, saying, “We don’t have political prisoners in Iran — anymore.”
“It’s getting worse in Iran, because the dictator is taking away more freedoms, including freedom of speech and jailing journalists,” said Mohammed, who has family in Tehran.
Meanwhile, he said, “Obama is doing nothing.”
Native Syrians joined Iranian-Americans to decry Iran’s support of their homeland’s regime.
“This is a united symphony of protest,” said Malek Jandali, a musician of Syrian origin who lives in Atlanta. “We’re united against the massacres of men, women and children in both Iran and Syria.”
Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report.