Obama to urge U.N. to address crisis in Muslim world

9:32 AM, Sep 25, 2012   |    comments
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NEW YORK - In his last international address before Election Day, President Barack Obama on Tuesday will speak to the United Nations General Assembly and challenge the world to confront the root causes of rage that have exploded across the Muslim world, calling it a defining choice "between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes we hold in common."

Mr. Obama will tell world leaders that the United States will not shrink from its role in troubled, transitioning nations despite the killing of four Americans in Libya, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens.

More than 50 people have died in violence in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia linked, at least in part, to recent protests against an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube that mocks the Prophet Mohammad.

In excerpts of his General Assembly speech released in advance by the White House, Mr. Obama will say, "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.

"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.

"If we are serious about those ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis. Because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common.

"Today, we must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations."

Mr. Obama will declare that the United States of America will stand up for the aspirations of people everywhere who "long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes from faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people - and not the other way around."

Much of the recent violent protests have been directed at the United States because the anti-Islam film was produced in this country; there have been public calls for the filmmaker's arrest, extradition nor murder.

The White House has now deemed the attack on its consulate in Libya a "terrorist attack" but they have stopped short of calling it premeditated.

In the first days following the attack the Obama administration had characterized the assault as a spontaneous demonstration by protesters inflamed by the video.

There have also been questions about whether there was adequate security at the Benghazi compound, most recently underscored by a testy exchange between a State department spokesman and a BuzzFeed journalist regarding CNN's decision to report on Stevens' personal journal, which was found by a reporter in the largely unguarded facility after the attack.

President Obama will also to seek to show U.S. resolve in preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. It is an issue that has undermined the White House's relations with Israel's leadership, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has grown more outspoken about the U.S. election and meeting the military threat from Tehran, going so far as to compare Iran to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

In an interview with CBS News' Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned whether the U.S. was doing the bidding of Israel.

"Who is subservient to whom? The Zionists to the United States government, or the United States government to the Zionists? Which one is which?" Ahmadinejad said.

In his remarks President Obama will call for resolving the impasse through diplomacy, "and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited. 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.

"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. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. 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."

Just beyond his remarks on unity and U.S. determination will lap the forces of election year politics, as critics snipe that Mr. Obama is skipping any formal talks with world leaders during the U.N. meetings - as he made time to tape an appearance with first lady Michelle Obama for ABC's "The View," airing Tuesday.

Senior White House correspondent Bill Plante told "CBS This Morning" that "Simply put, this is about politics in an election year. He did have last year, for example, 13 meetings with other world leaders while he was here - and this year, none."

By comparison, in 2004 as President George W. Bush came to New York City to speak to the U.N. he also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - as well as attend a campaign rally at the Sheraton Hotel.

In 1996 President Bill Clinton declined attending lunch with world leaders and then-Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.  

A campaign spokesman for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Mr. Obama's foreign policy was in "disarray."

"As president, Mitt Romney will repair our relationships abroad and create a safer, more secure nation," spokesman Ryan Williams said.

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