Nicaraguan leader rails at U.S. hegemony

By ALEXANDRA OLSON, AP, Sept. 25, 2007

UNITED NATIONS - Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega accused the U.S. of imposing a worldwide dictatorship and defended the right of Iran and North Korea to pursue nuclear technology in a speech Tuesday before the U.N. General Assembly meeting.

Ortega also angrily denounced President Bush for criticizing Cuban leader Fidel Castro during his speech earlier in the day.

Ortega, who took office in January, said little had changed since he last addressed the world body as the Marxist leader of Nicaragua's Sandinista-run government two decades ago.

"The presidents of the U.S. change. And they may come to office with the greatest of intentions and they may feel that they are doing good for humanity, but they fail to understand that they are no more than instruments of one more empire in a long list of empires that have been imposed on our planet," Ortega said, waving his arms.

Ortega had started off addressing the central theme of this year's General Assembly meeting — climate change — but he quickly launched into a tirade against global capitalism, meandering from his notes and speaking well beyond his allotted 15 minutes.

The world is under "the most impressive, huge dictatorship that has existed — the empire of North America," he said. An "imperialist minority is imposing global capitalism to impoverish us all and impose apartheid against Latin American immigrants and against African immigrants."

He said the United States, as the only country to have used nuclear bombs in a war, was in no position to question the right of Iran and North Korea to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

"And even if they want nuclear power for purposes that are not peaceful, with what right does (the U.S.) question it?" Ortega added.

During his election campaign, Ortega pledged to maintain ties with Washington but he also has reached out to Iran and Venezuela, which are courting allies in their fight against U.S. influence. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Nicaragua in January, and Ortega went to Iran in June.

Earlier Tuesday, leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales defended his own nation's ties with Iran, saying he is eager for Iranian help in developing the natural gas industry. Ahmadinejad plans to travel to Bolivia on Wednesday to sign cooperation accords with Morales, then travel to Venezuela to meet with leftist President Hugo Chavez.

Ortega's speech recalled last year's U.N. speech by Chavez, who caused a storm by calling Bush the "devil." Chavez is not attending this year.

Ortega did not directly insult Bush. But he came to the ailing Castro's defense moments after Bush declared that "in Cuba, the long rule of a cruel dictatorship is nearing its end." Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque walked out of the assembly in protest.

"And we heard from the president of the United States this morning a total lack of respect when he spoke of Cuba," Ortega said. "Fidel Castro has shown great solidarity with humanity."

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