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 240.

    America and Israel advocating to stop Iran from going nuclear when they have no intention of renouncing their own nuclear weapons, don't do as I do, do as I say!

    This is the most complete and shameless hypocrisy. The Iranians are not stupid, so don't treat them as if they are.

  • Comment number 239.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Is Benjamin Netanyahu going to advocate at the UN that the middle east should be a nuclear free zone or only that nuclear weapons are only to be routed, by force if necessary, in every other country but Israel?

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    if Iran had no oil then none of this fuss would have been happening. See: Pakistan, North Korea, India.

    the US have tried every trick in the book to destabilise Iran in the last 60 years, and now they are trying to clear the way for an invasion since every other way has failed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Mr. Obama, why not devote your time and effort to solving economic and unemployment problems that has ridicule your presidency? Iran is not a problem. Do not loose sight of the many problems you have at home. Fix the problems at home. After all, I do believe that the Iranian leaders and regime are highly responsible people a million times more than the many block head western leaders and regimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    So, if all of this posturing by the US is to erradicate tyrants around the World, I find it strange that they only seem to be targetting Oil Wealthy states. What about Zimbabwe, oh, no Oil. North Lorea (again), well, again, no Oil. You may say Afghanistan, why are they there....hmmmm.... Caspian Oil Field Pipelines by any chance....

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Just when you think it may be a good idea to talk and reason with Ahmadinejad he goes and says something stupid about Israel. The Iranian people deserve better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    Religion and politics should not be mixed. Hasn't the past taught us anything? The Holy Roman Empire, Cromwell VS Charles 1st etc etc
    Secular states are the way forward leaving religion to be practised in private and not forced upon a nation as a political and social doctrine

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    There's quite a few countries who, how shall we say, are a little bit dodgy, they have nuclear weapons already.?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    "201.Knut Largerson

    They hate us already so why not?"

    Have you ever stopped to wonder why?


  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    I am always interested in these debates when Islamists start to compare their situation to Chritians and vice-versa.

    What you don't seem to get we don't care about religion, we don't care if you find fairies or gods important. We want peace and prosperity for our families and children and the thought of organised religion is not something many people in the West consider to be a good thing.

  • Comment number 229.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    208. Ingvar_Gunnarsson
    'Even if Iran were to acquire a nuclear weapon it's supposed target - Israel, has by most estimates over 100. It'd be like asking to have your backside handed to you on a plate.'
    I'm sorry, but Israel is a small nation, one nuclear weapon could be too much to recover from, Iran? Don't forget it's nut case state!

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    US and Israeli intelligence both agree that Iran is NOT developing nuclear weapons and has not even decided to do so.

    The US and Israel are not worried about a threat from a nuclear Iran. They know that the Iranians are not suicidal and would have nothing to gain from a first strike. What they really don't want is an Iran nuclear deterrant to interfere with their plans -controlling the region.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    212. LeftLibertarian

    The Taliban are offering to renounce their allegiance with Al-Qaeda and end the violence, if that's not winning then what is?

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    There is no doubt that War is coming

    That was said by every sheeple who ever lived, revealing his own blood lust, gullibility, gutlessness, collusion in slaughter and malleability . Nothing's inevitable.
    God help us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    @198 American extremists sit at the controls of drone aircraft and use them to bomb targets in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan: targets that include many innocent families. But you're saying that it is only Islamic extremists who kill. And if you haven't heard of american extremists wanting the second coming of christ then you're even less well read than I initially thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    @155 Trevor. The mythical invasion argument doesn't hold water and it never did. There were lots of reasons for the bombings (none of them good) but saving lives wasn't one of them. Do some research rather than just reproduce the same old propaganda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    I am not anti-Semitic, I have no hate of the Jewish people and I am mostly pro-Israeli, but as a man of science and reason not “abracadabra”. I cannot help but ask the question should we allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon to balance the region? After all Israel supposedly has no war heads officially, yet has been concealing 80 + war heads; this can’t be allowed to continue right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    To all those hysterically shrieking 'hypocrisy!' (with some interesting spelling variations) it might be worth remembering that Ahmadinejad has expressed his desire to 'eliminate' another country.

    If you want to talk about hypocrisy, consider what your own reactions would be if a Western politician made this statement. Pretty sure you'd be keen to make sure they didn't have any nuclear weapons.


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