Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has left for the U.S. to pursue a crowded agenda that focuses on connecting with mainstream Americans including those who are part of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

For a seventh successive year, the Iranian President will address the General Assembly session, which commences on September 25. Mr. Ahmadinejad will also represent the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) as its rotating President.

But apart from rubbing shoulders with world leaders, Mr. Ahmadinejad has public diplomacy prominently in his sights. Not only would he meet activists of the Occupy Wall Street movement, he will also engage with American university students, artists and intellectuals. Mr. Ahmadinejad also plans to reach out to the public through interviews with CBS and CNN television networks as well with the Russia Today satellite channel.

The visit began with the customary friction with U.S. authorities. Two Ministers, Esfandiar Rahim Mashayee, President’s chief of staff, and 17 others were denied visa, Iranian media reported. The delegation, guarded by 150 security personnel, will stay in Manhattan’s Warwick hotel, Fars News Agency is reporting.

The timing of the visit to New York is somewhat ironic. The President is trying to win the hearts-and-minds of Americans, at a time when Washington is leading a massive naval drill, as part of a 30-nation alliance not far from the Iranian shores. Apart from the show of veiled confrontation, the Americans have led the drive for the imposition of stringent economic sanctions against Tehran, supposedly to curb its nuclear programme.

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