Obama honours slain US Ambassador, confronts Iran, Syria
UNITED NATIONS – President Barack Obama declared today the United States will “do what we must” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned against threatening attacks whose consequences would be devastating.
Taking the podium at the United Nations six weeks before the US presidential election, Obama sought to counter criticism of his foreign record by Republican rival Mitt Romney, who has accused him of mishandling the Arab Spring uprisings, damaging ties with Israel and not being tough enough on Iran.
Obama also challenged world leaders to stand united against anti-American violence that has swept many Muslim countries in recent weeks and to promote tolerance amid anger over a crudely made video that offended Islam. “There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents,” he said.
Seeking to step up pressure on Iran, Obama told the UN General Assembly that there is still time for a diplomacy but that “time is not unlimited.”
His tough talk appeared aimed at easing Israeli concerns about US resolve to curb Tehran’s nuclear drive, as he reasserted before the world body that he would never let Iran develop an atomic bomb and then simply contain the problem.
But he stopped short of meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand to set a specific “red line” that Iran must not cross if it is to avoid military action, and did not go much farther in his rhetoric than previously.
“A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” he said. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy.”
“The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
In an apparent allusion to recent comments by US, Israeli and Iranian officials, Ban opened the annual UN General Assembly by warning states against threatening to attack one another and sounded a pessimistic note about Arab-Israeli peace.
“I also reject both the language of delegitimisation and threats of potential military action by one state against another,” Ban said. “Any such attacks would be devastating.”
US officials have repeatedly said that all options are on the table against Iran – code for a possible military strike – while Israel’s Netanyahu has called for a US ultimatum to Iran. But Obama did not repeat that line in his speech.
On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be “eliminated.” The White House dismissed his comments as “disgusting.
Without naming Ahmadinejad, Obama took a veiled swipe at him today, saying the world must “leave behind” those who deny the Holocaust or reject Israel’s right to exist.
Obama also sought to reassure US voters that he is doing everything he can to head off any more violence like the September 11 attack in Libya that killed the US ambassador and three of his colleagues. (Reuters)