NEW YORK — President Barack Obama Tuesday strongly condemned this month’s violence across the Muslim world against the ‘disgusting’ anti-Islam video in a speech to the UN General Assembly, and called for a consideration of the ‘deeper causes’ of the regional crisis.
“The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam,” he told world leaders gathered in the 193-member Assembly’s spacious hall.
“Yet”, he added, “to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shia pilgrims.”
“Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.”
“There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.”
In his remarks, Obama also emphatically ruled out any “containment” strategy with a nuclear Iran, saying the United States “will do what we must” to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb.
“America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited,” the president said. “We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace.
Obama called the video “an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well.”
“The attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded,” Obama said.
“If we are serious about those ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis,” he continued. “Because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common.” “However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders, in all countries, to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism. 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. For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes excuses, for those who resort to violence,” he said.
“That brand of politics – one that pits East against West; South against North; Muslim against Christian, Hindu, and Jew – cannot deliver the promise of freedom. To the youth, it offers only false hope. Burning an American flag will do nothing to educate a child. Smashing apart a restaurant will not fill an empty stomach. Attacking an Embassy won’t create a single job. 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.”
Agencies add: Obama said: “the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.”
“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.
His speech was designed to counter claims from White House rival Mitt Romney and also to renew his outreach to the Muslim world after two weeks of anti-American violence triggered by a movie trailer that insulted Islam. Obama said the Arab Spring would lead to improved democracy and living standards in a Middle East region more in line with US values but, while he condemned the film, he insisted no insults could justify violence. He vowed that the militants who stormed the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11, killing the American ambassador to Libya and three colleagues, would face justice and said the United States would always defend free speech.
Debate in New York in the run-up to the assembly focused on the violence in Syria and the risk that the Iranian stand-off could lead to broader conflict if Israel or the United States launched a pre-emptive strike.