VERENA DOBNIK | AP
NEW YORK (AP) — An Iranian diplomat was escorted from a street by 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 U.N. when he was noticed and confronted by the angry mob, said New York Police Department 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 GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich praised the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama 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 Iraqi President 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 two former U.S. ambassadors to the U.N., U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island.
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 by 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."
Earlier Wednesday, Gingrich addressed the crowd, challenging Obama to take stronger action against Iran as it threatens to become a nuclear power.
"If you're going to support freedom in Libya, why not freedom in Iran?" Gingrich asked the crowd as Ahmadinejad spoke to the U.N. General Assembly. "If you're going to support freedom in Egypt, why not freedom in Iran?"
Gingrich, who ran for president this year, urged the U.S. government to help Iranians oust Ahmadinejad by bringing to bear "political, economic, informational and other pressure."
Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.
A car crashed into a building on 2nd Avenue and East 4th Street in the East Village on Wednesday morning. At least eight people were injured, three in serious condition, according to FDNY officials.
A car jumped the curb on 2nd Avenue and East 4th Street in the East Village on Wednesday morning injuring eight people. Witnesses say the Nissan was traveling at a high speed before it took out the store front, trees, bicycles, a light post and a fire hydrant.
Riders should anticipate some changes but "near normal" service on the Long Island Rail Road for the morning rush. Crews have been working to repair tracks and switches after Monday's derailment.