Iranian leader denied visit in NYC

Construction workers take a break in their work as seen through a fence surrounding ground zero in Lower Manhattan on Thursday in New York. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the proposed visit to ground zero by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahm THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, KATHY WILLENS

AP

Construction workers take a break in their work as seen through a fence surrounding ground zero in Lower Manhattan on Thursday in New York. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the proposed visit to ground zero by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahm THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, KATHY WILLENS

By Larry McShane

NEW YORK – Almost everyone agrees Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn’t belong at ground zero.

So who gets access these days to the 16-acre pit where the World Trade Center once anchored the Manhattan skyline, a slice of the city that many regard as hallowed ground?

Construction workers. The families of victims. The occasional journalist. And not too many others, in stark contrast to the days immediately after Sept. 11 when the smoldering site was overrun with celebrities, politicians and even Playboy playmates.

Within a month after the attack, however, the city was turning down hundreds of requests to visit the site and began asking celebrities to avoid the area as the treacherous search for remains continued.

Six years later, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said a proposed ground zero visit by Ahmadinejad during next week’s U.N. General Assembly had no chance. Police cited ongoing construction and security concerns, and the Iranian president, who is under Secret Service protection while in the U.S., was told to steer clear.

“We have communicated our concerns to the Iranian Mission,” Kelly said. “I am sure they will abide by our statement … Our position is that he will not be permitted to go.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of Ahmadinejad: “I personally find what this guy has said abhorrent, and I think it would be inappropriate to have him visit.”

Some objected to Ahmedinejad’s visit on political grounds.

“To have the leader of the greatest state sponsor of terrorism in the world visit the site of the most heinous terrorist attack on America would be an affront to the victims and families of 9/11 and to all who lived through that day,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

The sentiment was echoed by the State Department, where deputy spokesman Tom Casey called the idea of an Ahmedinejad visit “rather appalling and the height of hypocrisy.” New York-based presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani also expressed their opposition to the suggested visit.