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.


More on This Story

Anti-Islam film protests

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • Comment number 120.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    The thought of iran getting the bomb is horrific.they've promidsed to wipe israel from the face of the earth and this will bring that reality closer to home and seeing as it's the mad theocratic clerics have the real power then you can expect the west to kowtow to extremism until we can kiss our freedom goodbye.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.


    I said people shouldn't be disciminated against due to their religion or race. In an ideal world, people could choose their religion. In many places, people are forced to follow the dominant religion and many parents force their children to follow their religion. If the children disobey, they can face honour killing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Would he have made this speech if there wasn't an election looming? No. This is just a feeble attempt to gain votes. I

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    With Bin Laden gone America needs to nominated the next "WORLD THREAT" to carry on it's strategic psycological population control... Rule by fear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    ref #89
    along with leaving the U.S you can forgo the 25% the U.S contributes to the U.N
    The U.N could not enforce a humanatarian crisis how do you expect anyone to take them seriously on the threat of islamic terrorism?

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    People who live outside the global community have the right to do so, however if you then wish to threaten a section of said community with elimination then don’t be too surprised that we do more than raise an eyebrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    How many wars has Iran start over last 100 years, then compare to the USA. How many lies were told over Iraq, can we trust these people who preach about global peace, whilst their minions create global wars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    President Barack Obama is to tell the UN General Assembly the US will "do what we must" to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons


    "Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations," he will say.

    Ironic. And imagine China saying they'll "do what we must" to get those Islands off Japan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Finally the UN are going to do something about the needles slaughter of thousands of innocent... oh... no, sorry they are just going to talk about it some more.

    Talk is cheap can we please see some action that actually helps innocent people in difficult situations rather than political careers of the speakers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Ah, the unbiased Nobel Peace Prize winner makes a new proclamation.

    Can you see the hand of Binny up his back working him?? It must be election year and he must want to win Florida

    Iran should in no way threaten neighbours, but is the UN really the correct forum for Israel to complain when they ignore so many resolutions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Here's my two cents. I''ve seen my country fight 2 wars concurrently for for years with one still ongoing and drone wars as well. The U.S. is not threatened by a nuclear armed Iran. We can destroy every nation on Earth many times over with our own nuclear arsenal. Israel is threatened by Iran. Therefore, if Israel fills like it has to attack Iran, go for it, but don't ask the U.S. for help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    who wants Romney on a party? lemme think: 53% of 300m ... let's draw some straw out of the hat. Bumpy road? all Crete is con popstacles, whatever that is. Ow wait, more of them seven trollions wanna a lite of tsotsa-tsola. Okay, let's disco. Houston? some 51 shards svp. Or around that error all over the show. Now back to the skipping records here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    There is really no option either the Iranians have to back down and let the IEA check every nuclear facility allowing access to everything. Or Isreal uses bunker busting bombs, supported by the USA, to destroy the facilities. Either way time is running out.

    My preferred choice is peace but sadly war is the natural state of mankind and in this instance inevitable.

  • Comment number 106.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    It is interesting that USA feels threatened by Iran whereas other super powers i.e. Russia and China do not. Why is this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    You moan that America is telling people what to do, what would you say if they stood back, Iran created a nuclear weapon and used it and the prevailing winds blew it towards you and your family. I bet you would start thinking " I wish American had helped stop this". If not then its a lovely world you would like to bring your kids up in, one where people can make and use MWD without consequence

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    No chance for US to attack Iran. US is not able to defeat the Taliban. How can US defeat Iran. We the Muslim do not care about US anymore. US is only super power for Europian not for the Muslim. We the Afghan gived a crushing defeat to the US and it is more than enugh for US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    I wish I could believe that if 'The West' simply left 'The Middle East' alone, then we would not face the threats that we do...but I think that this is a totally naive viewpoint.

    The violent protests over the recent video are proof that radical muslims living in the middle east will no longer tolerate western liberal views where the rule of Islam is not applied.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Mike from Brum says "...If the US were to take the leash off Israel, Iran would find out exactly how fake the Jewish military are."

    There is a suggestion that, should a war with Iran be imminent, the IDF is to be transferred to Germany while American troops take their place.


Page 25 of 30


More Middle East stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.