Iran's Ahmadinejad denied visit to NY Trade Center

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NEW YORK, Sep 20 (Reuters) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been denied a request to visit the World Trade Center site of the September 11 attacks, New York police said.

Ahmadinejad, who regularly accuses the United States of arrogance in his speeches, had asked to visit the site while in New York for the United Nations General Assembly this month.

''The site is closed to visitors because of construction there,'' police spokesman Paul Browne said in a statement yesterday.

''Requests for the Iranian president to visit the immediate area would also be opposed by the NYPD on security grounds.'' Police said they were unsure why Ahmadinejad wanted to visit.

The mere notion of Ahmadinejad visiting drew fire from White House hopefuls on both sides of the political divide.

Washington has long accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism.

''It is unacceptable for Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who refuses to renounce and end his own country's support of terrorism, to visit the site of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in our nation's history,'' Democratic US Sen Hillary Clinton said in a statement.

Former Republican New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani also opposed any such visit.

''This is a man who has made threats against America and Israel, is harboring Bin Laden's son and other al Qaeda leaders, is shipping arms to Iraqi insurgents and is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons,'' he said.

''Assisting Ahmadinejad in touring Ground Zero -- hallowed ground for all Americans -- is outrageous.'' Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to the United Nations, agreed with the police decision and accused Iran of supporting violent groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

''We do not support that the tragedy that happened on a site where so many people lost their lives be used as a photo op,'' Khalilzad told reporters.

After the September 11 attacks, some Iranians held impromptu vigils in Tehran.

In 2002 US President George W Bush famously labeled Iran as part of an ''axis of evil'' that also included Iraq and North Korea. Since then Iran has defied western pressure to suspend its nuclear programme.

Officials at the Iran mission to the United Nations were not immediately available for comment.

REUTERS RC BST0522

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