Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Criticised in Iran Over Size of UN Entourage
An Iranian MP has criticised the country’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for taking more than a hundred people with him to the UN general assembly in New York, saying the large entourage had travelled there for “a picnic”.
At a time when many Iranians are struggling with economic hardship because of sanctions, almost 140 people have joined their president in his final visit to New York. Most of them are staying at the city’s luxurious Warwick hotel, where suites can cost up to £1,000 a night.
The president is expected to address the general assembly on Wednesday in a speech that is highly anticipated by both his opponents in Iran and those watching him for any hint about the country’s disputed nuclear programme or Tehran’s support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.
Initially, visas had been requested for some 160 people, but the semi-official Fars news agency reported that about 20 applications were turned down, including those for members of his cabinet and two ministers. Other Iranian sources, however, have put the numbers of those banned from US trip as high as 60.
Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff and close confidant, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who is despised by the rival conservatives as the head of a “deviant current” within the president’s inner circle, and the foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi are accompanying him for the UN visit.
In recent days, Iranian parliamentarians and media have spoken against the number of people travelling along with Ahmadinejad to the US, a country Iranian leaders depict as their sworn enemy.