Iran's first lady makes rare speech at Rome summit

AP News
Posted: Nov 15, 2009 1:26 PM

Iran's first lady made rare public appearance and even more rare, a speech, at a Rome forum on the eve of a U.N. summit to fight hunger beginning Monday.

The wife of Iranian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad almost never appears in public with her husband and is believed never to have previously addressed a public gathering.

First Lady Azam al-Sadat Farahi came to the forum of wives of heads of state on Sunday, before the start Monday of the three-day summit on strategy to fight world hunger at the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO.

With a black chador wrapped tightly about her, Farahi did not take the podium but spoke from her seat among the rows of spouses of some of the 60 heads of state expected to attend the summit, FAO spokesman Christopher Matthews said.

Farahi had not been expected to speak, and no written text of her remarks was immediately available, FAO officials said. The Italian news agency ANSA said that she described Iran as an example in the fight against hunger, saying her country's system, following religious teachings, guarantees food security for all families.

Italy's Sky TG24 TV said Farahi also denounced the plight of hungry children in Gaza.

The forum was led by Suzanne Mubarak, wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Formal ties were severed between Iran and Egypt in 1979, when Cairo signed a peace deal with Israel, which Tehran bitterly denounces as an enemy.