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    Middle East Concerns Dominate Opening of UN Assembly

    Margaret Besheer
    U.S. President Barack Obama urged world leaders to speak out strongly against violence and extremism in the wake of an anti-Islam video that sparked international protests.  Speaking Tuesday at the start of the U.N. General Assembly annual debate, Obama and other leaders also demanded an end to the violence that has killed more than 20,000 people in Syria.  
     
    Obama said the recent attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, was not just an attack on America, but upon the ideals on which the United Nations was founded.
     
    He called the anti-Islam amateur video that triggered the attack and subsequent protests around the world “crude and disgusting” and reasserted that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the film, which was made by a man in California.

    Watch President Obama's Full Speech to the U.N. General Assembly
     
    “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," he said. 
     
    Obama also sought to reassure Israel and warn Iran over its controversial nuclear program. “Let me be clear: 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," he said. 
     
    He added that the United States would do what it must to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
     
    On Syria, he said the future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people.
     
    The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, whose government supports the Syrian opposition, said the situation has reached an “unacceptable phase,” and he urged Arab countries to intervene.  “In view of this, I think it is better for the Arab countries themselves to interfere out of their national, humanitarian, political and military duties and do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed in Syria and the killing of innocent people and their displacement, in order to guarantee a peaceful transition of power in Syria," he said.  
     
    France’s president, Francois Hollande, who made his General Assembly debut, said his government will recognize a provisional transitional government in Syria as soon as it is formed.  “This government will itself have to give guarantees that every community in Syria will be respected and will be able to live in security in their own country," he said.
     
    He also expressed deep concern about the violence and hunger in the Sahel region of Africa, and in particular Mali, saying the occupation of northern Mali by terrorist groups is “intolerable” and “unacceptable.”  “France, I am announcing here, will support any initiative that would enable Africans themselves to resolve this issue in the framework of international law with a clear mandate from the Security Council.  Yes, Mali must recover its territorial integrity and the terrorists must be eliminated from this region in the Sahel," he said. 
     
    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the weeklong proceedings, telling leaders they are meeting at a time of “turmoil, transition and transformation” and urging them to use their voices to lower tensions, not raise them.

    Related video of presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan

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