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Obama Confronts Muslim Unrest, Iran In UN Speech


U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 67th UN General Assembly in New York on September 25.
U.S. President Barack Obama says it is time to isolate those who use hatred of America, the West, or Israel as a central political principle.

Speaking at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, he called an anti-Muslim video that has provoked violence across the Muslim world an insult not only to Muslims but to America as well.

"I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity," Obama said. "It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well -- for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and faith."

More than 30 people have been killed since a promotional trailer for the privately made film "The Innocence of Muslims" sparked outrage across the Muslim world and protests outside U.S. embassies and businesses with links to the United States.

Obama told the UN that the film was "crude and disgusting" and added, "We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of [U.S.] citizens are among them."

'Strongest Weapon'

Obama said the freedom of speech that allows such videos to be made also provides a response to "hateful speech."

"The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech -- the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect," he said.

Heavy smoke covers the skyline of Aleppo after a bombing run by Syrian aircraft on September 24.
Heavy smoke covers the skyline of Aleppo after a bombing run by Syrian aircraft on September 24.
But he said the attacks of the last two weeks are an assault not only on America but on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded.

Obama also said the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "must come to an end."

"As we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop and a new dawn can begin," Obama said.

Obama said Syria's future "must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people" but should belong to all Syrians – " Sunnis and Alawites; Kurds and Christians."

Obama accused Iran of propping up the Assad regime and fueling other tensions in the world.

"Just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government props up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad," Obama said. "Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations."

Remembering Chris Stevens

Obama told the UN that "time is not unlimited" to resolve the crisis over Iran's nuclear program through diplomacy.

Obama said the United States respects the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power but said a nuclear-armed Iran "would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy."

Obama's address to the UN General Assembly contained several references to Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, earlier this month.

Obama noted Stevens' long experience with countries in North Africa and the Middle East and said Stevens "built bridges across oceans and cultures and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents."

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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