UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – US President Barack Obama addressed the UN General Assembly Tuesday, focusing on tensions in the Middle East and vowing the United States would do what it must to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Here are the main excerpts from his speech:
“Make no mistake. A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy,” Obama said.
“That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he declared.
“The future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people,” Obama said, insisting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad “must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn begin.”
“If there is a cause that cries out for protest in the world today, it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings.”
Obama said the United States would work for a “united and inclusive” Syria “with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute; and assistance and support for those who work for this common good.”
ATTACK ON US CONSULATE IN LIBYA
Obama framed his speech around the life and work of ambassador Chris Stevens killed on September 11 along with three other Americans in a militant attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“I tell you this story because Chris Stevens embodied the best of America… he built bridges across oceans and cultures, and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents.”
Obama argued the attack on the Benghazi consulate was more than a simple “attack on America” but an assault on bedrock UN values of diplomacy.
He vowed to hunt down those behind the attack.
“The attacks on our civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America. There should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice,” Obama said.
Obama insisted there has been “progress” in the countries where populations rose up in 2011 to oust long-time autocratic rulers, but stressed true democracy required “hard work.”
“So let us remember that this is a season of progress. For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive, and fair.”
But he cautioned: “The events of the last two weeks speak to the need for all of us to address honestly the tensions between the West and an Arab World moving to democracy.”
And he warned: “Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.”
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
“Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.
“Moreover, as president of our country, and commander-in-chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so.”
But Obama stressed: “There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy.”