Monday, September 24, 2007

A visit from the bogeyman &Tales of One Thousand and One Lies

"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals. In Iran we don't have this phenomenon. I don't know who has told you we have it," Mr Ahmadinejad said to laughter and cries of disbelief from the audience of students and university staff. Homosexuality is illegal in Iran, and sodomy punishable by death. In one case, two teenage gay boys were executed in 2005. The Iranian authorities accused one of them of rape, but the claim was denounced as a smokescreen for persecution by human rights activists. Mr Ahmadinejad's outlandish claim echoed a policy of denial towards homosexuality by some Iranian clerics and political leaders, but it is likely to have undermined his public relations campaign in the US, aimed at easing pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

Then, rather than withdrawing to his room, he was seen in the lobby mingling with guests and even - ever the populist - kissing babies.

Tony Blair appeared on Sunday evening, making his UN debut in his new job as Middle East envoy. Then Blair got the chance to talk: the words "big picture" were in the first sentence.

The question at the UN this week is whether they are scared enough to make peace.

· Julian Borger - the Guardian's diplomatic editor


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