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 560.

    3 Minutes ago
    “you know... some of us actually have spoken to real iranians?”

    Sorry, “some of my best friends are Iranians” doesn’t cut it.. I meant LIVE in the Islamic Republic of Iran buster… “Stunned Silence” would sum it up from you after two weeks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    Why doesn't he condemn Israel's nuclear proliferation? They ignore treaties and behave like bullies. Iran would be negligent in its duties to it's citizens NOT to protect itself against such an aggressive state in its neighbourhood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    I don't feel that any thinking person believes that Israel is perfect and infallible - far from it. But when you compare it with the states around it? Why do so many of the Muslim/Arab countries spend so much time murdering their own people, who happen to disagree with their government or religious sect. I can't recall Reform Jews slaughtering Orthodox ones lately, or vice versa. No comparison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    512 Black_Flag
    Pot calling the kettle black

    Organised religion is used by politicians throughout history wanting to raise their profile, wealth, land, population & concentration of ethnicity, it is a way to make man believe he will have an adventure after death and the best adventure on offer is the Muslims with their 72 virgins

    My faith extends to Peter Pan and the audience saving Tinkerbell

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    The anti- west agenda of Islamists is exacerbated by the West's indulgence of extremism inside and outside home borders. It makes me laugh to see Obama condeming the silly video and the extremists in one breath- to these people anything is a legitimate catalyst.

    If it wasn't the video or varioius cartoons they excuse their violence by other means- the west must realise that it is their ideology

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    why does america fight to extradite and arrest and prosecute islamic extremists when there are so many christian fanatics that do as much damage and need to be locked up eg terry jones?

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    This hypocrite has caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent children by random drone strikes in Pakistan (recent report by US group). He should be on trial for war crimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    How can a war monger speak out against violence? If USA were not so aggressive and intrusive in other countries business, the world would be a better place.
    If some nutter hadn't organised to kill thousands of innocent Americans and other Nationals of all Faiths, while they were going about their daily lives then I suspect much of the "war mongering" you complain about wouldn't have happened.

  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    Its all very well people praising Obamas carefully rehearsed speech but why is the other side of the debate not reported upon. Was Obama the only person speaking at the UN today?
    Yet again we are drip fed propaganda. The people of the world don't want war. Damn our rulers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    518.Name Number 6
    Are you being serious? It's a wind up right? Nobody can be that......

    530.Bibi - especially own a pet.

    532.Saurabh - they wouldn't learn. They never do. The vast majority of them including the politicians have no idea whatsoever how the world works.

    496.outhousemouse - I bet you believe the world was created in 4004BC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    God help the World, if Romney gains power.

    He will probably authorise an attack upon Iran and, amongst other things, will possibly trigger World War III.

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    To be honest I am totally sick of it all. As humans we are capable of great things, space travel, limb replacement technology, we communicate with each other on a global scale, but then in 2012 we still kill each other over who’s invisible friend is the best or has been insulted the most.
    Religion should be banned full stop, its killing us !

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    The US supports and condones huge violence in Arab countries in the name of democracy. But if someone so much as pushes some dog excrement through the letter box of an individual who is involved in animal torture that someone is branded a thug and barbarian. They just do not know what they are saying these politicians, no wonder they are stupid enough to think they can run a country

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    When The Life of Brian was released almost eleven Christians turned up to protest - but then they hadn't seen that, either...
    The Life of Brian wasn't made by Muslims. This film was made by Christians. It's like Fritz Hippler's "The Eternal Jew". It's vile propaganda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    Controlled Pair
    At no point did he say the Iranians will eliminate Israel
    Clear off with your anti Iran propaganda . All the rhetoric is coming from Israel who should also be faced with sanctions Israel is good a 3 things stealing land human rights violations and pushing for war

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.


    There were similarities.

    The point is the cover up.

    William was the genocidal piece of scum that was responsible.

    There has always been 'government' propaganda. For me, one of the best ways to deal with that truism is to have less 'government', more direct democracy.

    If we had this, would we invade Iran ?

    They may call themselves 'representatives', too often, they are not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    I condemn it too .... big deal! What do you intend to do about it -besides cause unnecessary wars all over the Middle East and Central Asia?
    It's not easy - but that's the point. US policy has been consistently unhelpful since I can remember - and my memory goes back to Vietnam. I don't want to bash US, as it is the world's police force, but some of its policies have been counterproductive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    Would that be in the same way that the VAST majority of Jews who now call themselves Israelis were, until a generation or two ago, actually American/British etc"
    I don't know, but since the US & UK were 2 of the few nations that didn't help to exterminate Jews 1-2 generations ago, it might make sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    I guess there’s no money to be made from a peaceful solution then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    @538. Rather_Be_Cycling

    How I wish all of the apologists for Iran's nutcase leader and "clerics" and armchair anti-American jihadists here would just wake up suddenly tomorrow living in the demi paradise of Iran. Can one of you try it and get back to us say in a year...
    you know... some of us actually have spoken to real iranians?

    have you?


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