A group of Columbia University students is expected to attend an upcoming private dinner with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will be in New York City in September for the United Nations General Assembly, The Columbia Spectator reported.
Fifteen members of the Columbia International Relations Council and Association (CIRCA) were invited to the Sept. 21 event in Manhattan, the newspaper said. The students will dine and speak with Ahmadinejad and Columbia President Lee Bollinger, who introduced the Iranian leader as "a petty and cruel dictator" when he spoke on campus in 2007.
At the same 2007 event, Ahmadinejad lambasted Bollinger for what he called the "insults" and "unfriendly treatment" he endured from his host.
CIRCA Vice President Tim Chan said so far he has not heard any concerns from the group about the upcoming dinner, the Spectator reported. "Everyone was really enthusiastic," he said.
The controversial Iranian leader has called for the destruction of Israel and questioned whether the Holocaust ever happened. On Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Ahmadinejad said the United States planned the attack as an excuse to launch wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Columbia University and Bollinger were criticized for hosting Ahmadinejad at the 2007 forum, where the Iranian president again cast doubt on the Holocaust and questioned whether al Qaeda was to blame for the 9/11 attacks. He also dismissed accusations that Tehran executed homosexuals, saying there were no gay people in his country.
Bollinger defended his decision to invite Ahmadinejad to campus in 2007, saying in a statement "Columbia, as a community dedicated to learning and scholarship, is committed to confronting ideas."