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UN translators let Ahmadinejad down
Iran's president takes centre-stage in New York but "glitches" prevent his address on "unjust" West from being heard.
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2010 17:39 GMT

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, has addressed the UN General Assembly on the second day of the world body's millennium development goals summit. But it is not what he said on Tuesday that has made the news but what happened during the simultaneous translation of his speech, which has caused controversy.

Right from the start, his speech was overshadowed by technical problems, as the president was heard saying: "There's no translation". These problems continued to cause confusion two minutes into his speech. All this was followed by an ominous announcement: "The interpreters would like to state that they are reading from a written text translated into English". With that, the translation stopped altogether.

Despite all the technical issues, Ahmadinejad managed to communicate his message that there is a need for an overhaul of what he called "undemocratic and unjust" global decision-making bodies.

The much-anticipated speech has now left many wondering what actually went wrong as the Iranian president's speech ended the same way as it started, without any translation.

Ahmadinejad, who arrived in New York on Saturday, told the Associated Press news agency that "the future belongs to Iran," and challenged the US to accept that his country has a major role in world affairs. 

US officials have made it clear that there are no plans for Barack Obama, the US president, to have any contact with the Iranian leader in New York this week.

Tight security

The New York Post, a right-wing tabloid, criticised US government spending on security preparations surrounding the Iranian leader's visit.

"Ahmadinejad has access to a private elevator on his floor, a source said, and everything he touches is supplied by his aides. His rooms' windowpanes were swapped for bullet-proof glass," the paper reported.

On the topic of Iran's nuclear programme, which Iran insists is for power generation rather than bomb-making, Obama plans to reiterate that the "door is still open" for international engagement, a US security official said on Monday.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Awad said on Tuesday that international diplomats are closely watching Ahmadinejad's actions in New York, because "any developments could have long term repercussions" for a nuclear deal.

While Ahmadinejad stole the spotlight, world leaders discussed the best ways to reduce global poverty.

Poverty reduction plans

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, opened the annual summit on Monday with a plea to presidents, prime ministers and kings to use their power to meet UN goals to help the world's poorest by 2015.

MILLENNIUM GOALS
1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
 2: Achieve universal primary education
3: Promote gender equality and empower women
4: Reduce child mortality
5: Improve maternal health
6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7: Ensure environmental sustainability
 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
Source: United Nations

Ten years after world leaders set the most ambitious goals ever to tackle global poverty, meeting the deadline will be difficult, if not impossible in some cases, the UN says.

On Monday, Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, made an impassioned plea to developed countries to join his country in raising its contribution to meet the millennium goals. France, he said, would increase its contribution by 20 per cent over the next three years

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland who was the UN human rights commissioner when the millennium goals were set in 2000, told Al Jazeera that there were two key reasons for why the UN has fallen short of its goals.

The first, she said, was the lack of a "rounded" approach to human rights, taking into account women's reproductive and legal rights and issues. The other is that the policies are not linked to employment, and do not address the jobless rates in the Middle East and North Africa.

She also conceded that there was an issue of accountability.

"The Millennium Development Goals did not have a sufficient benchmarking and accountability, including more accountability of the rich countries," Robinson said.

Ten African countries, including Ethiopia, Egypt, and post-conflict Angola, have halved their absolute poverty levels, Benin ranked in the top 10 in education improvements, and Angola and Niger significantly reduced child deaths.

On the minus side, Amnesty International said efforts in many countries fail to address the widespread discrimination women face in accessing food, water, sanitation and housing - especially in slums. It accused Kenya of ignoring the needs of women living in slums and Nigeria of evicting slum dwellers and driving them deeper into poverty.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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