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 600.

    Dear BBC, please stop trying to sway public opinion. Try to gauge opinion instead. Then you might report on something the public care about. We don't care anymore what the politicians say, they lie, they bend and distort the truth, all to serve their own agenda.
    The are the only extremists. They do not serve the people who elected them at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    After all, Iran‘s central government for one does not authorise building nukes. Its fatwa is still being enforced moreover the entire programme is merely civilian. If anything the weapons grade material might be surplus Iran plans to sell elsewhere.

    It‘s threats seem more political than all else (using it for political favour from the government for another term, i.e it will never happen)

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    580.Have your say Rejected
    569. Joseph_F, that's funny, none of my Muslim friends have ever tried to kill me, considering they know i'm an atheist, and an explicit one at that who believes there is no God(s).
    Try a holiday in Pakistan or one of the many" Islamic states"shown protesting lately and voice your opinions there and see what happens

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    562 power

    [most of them already taken care of by Navy Seals and Reapers]

    Still live in cowboy times where 'bang bang you're dead' will solve the worlds's problems? It won't as they will plot their revenge just as you plotted yours.
    As for calling Israel's critics 'crypto jew haters' - considering your own virulent anti Europe views, do you like to be called a crypto Europe hater?

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    583. powermeerkat...

    Who shared their nuclear weapons with Israel, or did they just stumble upon them out in the desert? I suppose for convenience sake the Israelis discovered them themselves, and the US or France didn't hand any info over.

    RE native Indians, its the first time I've seen this term used in this debate. Native americans may not be native, so that excused their annihilation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    583. powermeerkat

    Because Israel doesn't proliferate.
    Or perhaps you don't know what nuclear proliferation means?
    South Africa
    565. Justin150

    Iran wishes to eliminat Israel is to deny clear facts. The President of Iran has repeatedly denied the right of Israel to exist.
    The right of the Israeli _regime_ to exist. Same as the US denied the right of the Saddam regime to exist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.


    How are the Americans foreign polices any different than the Brits.
    BP, BAE, and so on. Our policies are written the same, just pronounced differently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    571 " enforce the resolutions"...ok who will be in charge of enforcing the resolutions, who will shed the blood and spend the money?

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    The rhetoric doesn't change much - back in the early 70's you would have been forgiven for thinking that Russians were hell bent on destroying the world. News reports consisted mostly of mobile missile launchers (supposedly secret!) and statements that 'they' were coming, probably today. Oddly, the result seemed to be that people had more fun on the basis that 'we might all get blown up tomorrow'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    @557 "Pot calling the kettle black"

    By the above you assume I favour one religion over another. I don't. I disregard them all equally. My answer, specifically, was to do with the bible. I would have thought my quoting "Don't you read your bible" in my post 512 would have alerted any astute poster to that fact. You seem, however, to view Islam with less regard than you do christianity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    I am Buddhist and we can see shoes with Buddha image on it. We dont go around killing people. Ofcourse, its not nice to insult someone's culture or religion or race. If there is religion which said to kill others which are different from yours and then you can be in heaven, then there is a problem. I dont say Buddhist are good either, as other religion, there are extremist also.

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    Isn`t vetoing UN resolutions on political grounds a form of extremism? If Mitt Romney gets his hands on the presidency you will see real extremism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    Going by the comments here. We are more concerned with the US than Iran.
    Well done.
    Thats democracy & our leaders should act accordingly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    OK... hands up all people still think Obama is a truth speaking peace maker? Mr Nobel will surely be turning in his grave!

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    I thought it was a good speech.

    I believe Obama, as US president, is the best chance of peace in the Middle East. No one man can control the forces at work in the US without exhibiting an immense amount of patience. Which is what he is showing.

    This is a period of unprecedented democracy in the middle East and its a rocky path. But its the only path that will address extremism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    Why all this media led West versus the Middle East problems?
    The arabs and Europeans have been killing each other for hundreds of years there is nothing new here just greed and power by those in office....

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    559.margaret howard
    Why doesn't he condemn Israel's nuclear proliferation?
    Because Israel doesn't proliferate.
    Or perhaps you don't know what nuclear proliferation means?

    In that case read on Pakistan/NorthKorea/Iran cooperation/proliferation.

    PS re other post: there's no such thing as "native Indians". Native Indians are in INDIA. Native Americans being immigrants from NE Siberia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    President Obama stated:

    "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam".

    So, once again Obama is pandering to Islam and Muslims.

    Islam and Muhammad certainly have LOTS of things that merit "slandering".

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    Could this be true: - I heard Terry Jones has applied to the USAF to fly drones to help with the war on terror.


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