US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani exchanged taunts at the United Nations General Assembly with Trump vowing more sanctions against Tehran and Rouhani suggesting his American counterpart suffers from a ‘weakness of intellect.’
Trump used his annual address to the United Nations to attack Iran’s ‘corrupt dictatorship,’ praise last year’s bogeyman North Korea and lay down a defiant message that he will reject globalism and protect American interests.
But much of his 35-minute address was aimed squarely at Iran, which the United States accuses of harbouring nuclear ambitions and fomenting instability in the Middle East through its support for militant groups in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” Trump told the gathering in the green-marbled hall. “They do not respect their neighbours or borders or the sovereign rights of nations.”
Rouhani, addressing the assembled world leaders later, sharply criticised Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran. He said he had “no need for a photo opportunity” with Trump and suggested the US president’s pull back from global institutions was a character defect.
“Confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength. Rather it is a symptom of the weakness of intellect - it betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world,” he said.
Trump’s address was met largely by silence from world leaders still not comfortable with go-it-alone views that have strained US relationships with traditional allies worldwide.
His speech, while delivered in a low-key fashion, was nonetheless a thunderous recitation of his “America First” policies. He has disrupted the world order by withdrawing the United States from the nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord, and threatened to punish NATO nations for not paying more for their common defence.
“We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy,” Trump said, in language popular with his political base. “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”
Besides calling out Iran, Trump also criticised China for its trade practices but made no mention of Russia’s interference in Syria’s war or its suspected meddling in US elections.
Rouhani was defiant in his speech to the world body. “What Iran says is clear: no war, no sanctions, no threats, no bullying; just acting according to the law and the fulfilment of obligations,” Rouhani said.
(With inputs from agencies)
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