UNITED NATIONS: President Barack Obama Tuesday vowed to hunt those behind the “attack on America” in Libya that killed the US ambassador and said a “disgusting” film that insulted Muslims was no excuse for violence.
“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 told the UN General Assembly.
But while eulogising US ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed two weeks ago along with three other Americans, Obama also styled the attack as not just an assault on America, but also on the ideals behind the United Nations.
“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.”
In his annual speech to the world body, Obama again condemned the video produced by Coptic Christian extremists in the United States that set violence raging across the Arab world as “crude and disgusting.”
But he said that however vile, no exercise of free speech that is protected by the US Constitution could justify killing and violence.
“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.”
Obama also warned that in 2012 “when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete.”
“The question, then, is how we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.”
“There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy.”
Obama also demanded “sanctions and consequences” for atrocities in Syria and said President Bashar al-Assad’s rule must come to an end.
“The future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people,” Obama told the UN General Assembly in a keynote address.
“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.”
He told leaders at the UN headquarters: “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 also warned that the international community must act to prevent the 18 month old uprising against Assad turning into “a cycle of sectarian violence.”
He said the United States wants a Syria “that is united and inclusive; where children don’t need to fear their own government, and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed – Sunnis and Alawites; Kurds and Christians.”
“That is the outcome that we will work for – with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute; and assistance and support for those who work for this common good,” Obama said.
“We believe that the Syrians who embrace this vision will have the strength and legitimacy to lead.”
UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday condemned “shrill” talk of war between Israel and Iran which he said would be devastating.
Without mentioning the two rivals by name, Ban told the start of the UN General Assembly that he rejects “threats of potential military action by one state against another.
“Any such attacks would be devastating. The shrill war talk of recent weeks has been alarming,” he told the 193-nation assembly where the showdown over Iran’s nuclear program is one of the dominant themes.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is in New York, has shrugged off talk of an Israeli attack on his country’s nuclear facilities. But US President Barack Obama was to warn that the United States would “do what we must” to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon.
Iran has denied western accusations that it seeks a nuclear bomb.
Ban said that the Syrian civil war is a “calamity” that now threatens world peace and demands action by the divided UN Security Council.
Ban said that the Syria conflict “is a regional calamity with global ramifications” that needs action by the Security Council.
“The international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control,” Ban told world leaders, adding that “brutal” rights abuses were being committed by President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
“I call on the international community – especially the members of the Security Council and countries in the region – to solidly and concretely support the efforts” of UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
“We must stop the violence and flow of arms to both sides and set in motion a Syrian-led transition as soon as possible,” Ban added.
The 15-nation Security Council has become paralyzed by deadlock over the 18-month-old deadlock which Syrian activists say has left more than 29,000 dead.
Russia, Assad’s main ally, and China have vetoed three Security Council resolutions which could have led to sanctions against the Syrian government.
Ban said the crimes being committed in Syria must not go unpunished. “There is no statute of limitations for such extreme violence,” he insisted.
“It is the duty of our generation to put an end to impunity for international crimes in Syria and elsewhere.”
Ban said he wanted his address to the 193-member UN to “sound the alarm about our direction as a human family.”