Obama's UN General Assembly speech condemns extremism


President Obama: "It is the obligation of all leaders to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism"

US President Barack Obama has urged global leaders to rally against extremism in an address to the UN General Assembly in New York.

Mr Obama said it was the obligation of all leaders to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism, as he framed his speech with references to the US ambassador murdered in Libya.

Unrest across the Middle East is set to dominate discussion at the summit.

Mr Obama also again stressed the US would not allow Iran nuclear weapons.

He said the US would "do what we must" to stop Tehran acquiring nuclear arms. Six weeks before the US election, the president said a nuclear-armed Iran was "not a challenge that can be contained".

'Marginalise hatred'

Start Quote

US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in August 2012

Chris Stevens embodied the best of America”

End Quote US President Obama

Iran's nuclear programme and the 18-month conflict in Syria have featured strongly in Tuesday's speeches at the Assembly, as have the recent protests across the Muslim world in response to a US-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad.

The US president condemned the violence that erupted over the "disgusting" anti-Islam video as "an attack on UN ideals".

Referring to the US envoy who was killed in Benghazi on 11 September during protests sparked by the video, Mr Obama challenged the UN to affirm that "our future will be determined by people like Christopher Stevens, and not by his killers".

"It is time to marginalise those who - even when not resorting to violence - use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel as a central principle of politics," said Mr Obama.

"That brand of politics only makes it harder to achieve what we must do together: educating our children and creating the opportunities they deserve; protecting human rights and extending democracy's promise."

'Regional calamity'

While not formally on the General Assembly's agenda, Syria has been a focal point of debate.


President Obama cast the violent Arab protests against America as a battle of universal values.

It was epitomised, on the one hand, by the murdered US Ambassador Christopher Stevens representing the pursuit of freedom, dignity and justice and, on the other, by the crowd that killed him, driven by hatred and intolerance.

Mr Obama used that as a paradigm for the Arab Spring, encouraging its leaders to choose the former model not the latter. But although eloquent, the speech was long on principle and short on US policies that have stoked Arab anger, such as America's unstinting support for Israel over the Palestinians.

Mr Obama had nothing new to say about Syria - an issue which he tried and failed to solve through the UN. He did sharpen his rhetoric slightly on Iran's alleged drive to acquire nuclear weapons, but did not bow to Israeli pressure to set a red line for military action.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said the UN Security Council's failure to end the conflict meant it would be better for Arab countries to "interfere" in Syria.

French President Francois Hollande said the current Syrian leadership had no future, pledged to recognise a new provisional government as soon as it was formed and called on the UN to protect liberated areas of the country.

Opening the meeting earlier on Tuesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the fighting in Syria as "a regional calamity with global ramifications".

He called for action from the divided UN Security Council and said "the international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control".

The US president was blunter in his assessment, saying Bashar Assad's regime must end.

On Monday UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned on his return from a visit to Damascus and Syrian refugee camps in neighbouring Jordan and Turkey that the situation was "extremely bad and getting worse".

Diplomats have played down expectations for Mr Brahimi's mission, says the BBC's Barbara Plett in New York, with no sign of fundamental divisions on the Security Council being bridged.

In other developments:

  • Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari defended his government's record against extremism, saying no country had suffered more in the fight against terrorism; he said acts that endangered the world by "misusing freedom of expression" should be criminalised
  • Afghanistan's leader Hamid Karzai called on the UN to ease sanctions on Taliban leaders in order to help facilitate peace talks
  • Mr Hollande called for an international force to be sent to the West African state of Mali to help dislodge Islamist militants who have taken over the country's north
  • Mr Ban warned the door for negotiating a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process - "the only sustainable option" - may be closing "for good" due to continued Israeli settlement construction in the Palestinian Territories
  • Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for an international treaty to "prevent incitement to hostility or violence based on religions or beliefs"
  • Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez said Argentina's and Iran's foreign ministers will meet on the fringes of the summit to discuss bomb attacks on Buenos Aires in the 1990s
  • Mr Ban hosted a lunch for the more than 120 world leaders, but Mr Obama did not attend, leaving it to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to offer the host country's traditional toast
No red lines

Although the White House said Mr Obama's address was not a campaign speech, it follows critical remarks about his foreign policy from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi at Al Zaatri refugee camp in Jordan (18 Sept 2012) UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has just visited Damascus and refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey

His presidential rival condemned Mr Obama's description of the murder of Mr Stevens and three other Americans as "bumps in the road".

He has also castigated him for not taking time out to hold talks on Iran during the summit with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Obama has rejected the Israeli leader's calls for Washington to set Tehran "red lines".

Instead, he said the United States would "do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" with the backing of "a coalition of countries" holding Tehran accountable.

Tehran says its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes.


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Anti-Islam film protests

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  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I hope the US won´t dominate the UN.
    It was extremely undiplomatic, arrogant and inappropriate when the US representative recently described the position of Russia and China regarding Syria as `disgusting´ - because it was a different position from that of the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    For the record - beyond the odd agency that does things like delivery food aid on the ground the UN is eseentially just a talking shop.

    "It" cannot do this or do that, only provide for a space for member states to talk & if those nations can't agree than the UN can't do anything because it is just a forum, not a full organisation in itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    For over 60 years the West has sponsored the land-grab and repression of a majority indigenous population in the Eastern Mediterranean.
    Now other Security Council member(s?) are doing likewise in Syria, and the West does not like it.
    The Syrian regime has an easy example to follow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Syria's bestial cut-throat opposition gangsters would ethnically cleanse all the Christians from that country. Anyone who supports them is a traitor to the Christian religion and a gullible jackass.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    34. "The Assembly needs to focus on the increasing divide between Muslims and the rest of the world."

    I'd say they need to focus on the growing divide between people and their governments. Nations are being dragged into conflicts that all the major players KNOW are farcical, and worse they insist on doing it in the name of citizens who for the most part couldn't care less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    29. HELEN_of_TROY
    That area of the world has been in turmoil since biblical times, earlier even.

    So why do we think we can sort it now?


    Some guesses:
    Because politicians lie - sorry, tell us so?
    Because there is on going arms revenue in pointless wars?
    Because we're totally stupid?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    The Assembly needs to focus on the increasing divide between Muslims and the rest of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    the UN speechess mean nothing when the powerfull countries do as they like with no regard to the UNs Charter we saw the previous American administrations attitude towards the UN when it decided to invate Iraq

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Syria - the country which cowardly, numbskulled western liberal politicians and their sanctimonious media cheerleaders seek to cremate by funding and arming bloodthirsty Islamist militants, at the behest of sinister petro-dollar brandishing plastic sheikhs and caliphs. 'Activists', as Auntie cretinously calls them, aka terrorists when the reporting is from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Mali etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    29. "That area of the world has been in turmoil since biblical times, earlier even."

    "So why do we think we can sort it now?"

    Possible reason: Because we feel bad about being guilted into setting up a nation in the middle of some other people's nation and causing huge amounts of conflict as a result.

    Probable reason: We don't really, we just want a war to boost the economy or something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    The UN should ensure that all member states are secular. It should be just as illegal to discriminate against people because of their religion, or lack of religion, as to discriminate because of their colour. Religion should be a private issue and capital punishment for non-believers should have been abolished centuries ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    That area of the world has been in turmoil since biblical times, earlier even.

    So why do we think we can sort it now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    There have already been covert (and not so covert) operations undertaken in Iran by the west.
    We are 'at war' with Iran.
    Syria is just one step in that process because you wouldn't want them at your back when you march into Iran.
    We are truly plebs if we believe all we are fed by so-called 'news' organisations.
    The rise of Islam is directly linked to the demise of Christendom and its excess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    7. Pleb

    Let's be thankful Mitt Romney isn't president. If he were, he would have bombed Iran by now,

    One of the most ridiculous claims yet. Why so foolish?

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The UN is far worse than just a talking shop or an ineffective puppet show. And this article is typical of the mainstream media's love affair with global politics and inability to tell it like it really is.

    The UN merely creates a facade of legitimacy for the elitist oligarchic control of the planet when in fact the UN veto system blocks anything of real human value.

    Expect more war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    21. "Take a leaf out of the Christians rule book - live and let live."

    Christians may live and let live; Christian *fundamentalists* and showboating Christian *leaders* rage and pontificate (pun intended) about blasphemy and sacrilege all the time. And it's the latter that gets the attention, because the former are boring to watch.

    Is it such a stretch to imagine the same is true of Islam?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    the world knows very well that the American and Western government only careabout their own interest, look at Iraq its worse than before for the Iraqi people, saying that the American and Weatern government got the hands on the Iraqi oil. if they really cared about so much for the Iraqi people and the Kurds in North. why did they help Saddam in the first place? who put Saddam in power?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    So long as Syria has produce & not oil the country will be talked to death without action,the current regime harbour terrorists & manipulates Lebanon, the new incumbents will be just the same, only the names will change to protect the guilty. There will never be stability in Mid-East due to inherent corruption, a shame as they have some beautiful scenery & food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    It's a waste of time discussing the anti-Islamic film and cartoons, it's a fairly simple equation; if you give in - you validate Islamic censorship. If Islam don't like it - have they tried not acting like children when people cuss them? Take a leaf out of the Christians rule book - live and let live.

    This "nuclear program" - is this a genuine nuclear program or another oil reclamation project?


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