(Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the United Nations Thursday most people believe the U.S. government was behind the attacks of September 11, 2001, prompting the U.S. delegation to leave the hall in protest.

Addressing the General Assembly, he said it was mostly U.S. government officials and statesmen who believed al Qaeda Islamist militants carried out the suicide hijacking attacks that brought down New York’s World Trade Center and hit the Pentagon.

Another theory, he said, was “that some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy, and its grips on the Middle East, in order to save the Zionist regime.” Ahmadinejad usually refers to Israel as the “Zionist regime.”

“The majority of the American people as well as most nations and politicians around the world agree with this view,” Ahmadinejad told the 192-nation assembly, calling on the United Nations to establish “an independent fact-finding group” to look into the events of September 11.

As in past years, the U.S. delegation walked out during Ahmadinejad’s speech. It was joined by all 27 European Union delegations and several others, one Western diplomat said.

Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, reacted before Ahmadinejad finished speaking.

“Rather than representing the aspirations and goodwill of the Iranian people, Mr. Ahmadinejad has yet again chosen to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable,” he said.

“COVERED UP”

Ahmadinejad raised a third theory about the attacks, saying: “It was carried out by a terrorist group, but that the American government supported and took advantage of the situation. Apparently this viewpoint has fewer proponents.”

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