U.S. President Barack Obama opened his speech to world leaders gathered for the United Nations General Assembly with the statement that the world is more stable now than five years ago, though dangers remain.
President Obama said some of the most urgent challenges he has faced during his tenure as U.S. leader have revolved around the increasingly integrated global economy and efforts to recover from the worst economic crisis "of our lifetime." But he noted progress, including the creation of new jobs, the stabilization of global financial systems and people being lifted out of poverty, though he called that progress "fragile and unequal."
He also noted the end of a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying the U.S. is now shifting away from a "perpetual war footing" and reviewing the way it gathers intelligence.
President Obama spoke after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who reiterated her nation's concerns about recent disclosures that the U.S. engaged in cyber-spying in Brazil. Ms. Rousseff said meddling in such a manner in other countries is a "breach of international law" and a serious case of violation of human rights and human liberties. She called the U.S. claim that it intercepted data to protect nations from terrorism "untenable."
The Brazilian leader said her country will adopt legislation and technology to protect itself from the "illegal" interception of communications. And she called for an international framework to regulate the Internet.
The U.S. National Security Agency's surveillance activities were revealed in documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.
President Obama was also making the case for a strong response to chemical weapons use in Syria.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the annual General Assembly summit by appealing to world leaders to stop sending weapons to Syria. Mr. Ban called on "all states to stop fueling the bloodshed and to end the arms flows to all parties."
Mr. Obama is speaking hours before Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who urged Western leaders Monday to engage Iran and ease painful economic sanctions against his country.
Those sanctions stem from concerns that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and its repeated refusal to heed U.N. demands to suspend its uranium enrichment. Iran insists its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.
U.S. officials say there is no meeting scheduled between Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani while they are in New York, but have not ruled out the possibility. U.S. and Iranian government heads have not met since before the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.
A group of top U.S. senators called on Mr. Obama to reiterate in his speech that the U.S. will not accept a nuclear-capable Iran, and that the sanctions will continue despite Mr. Rouhani's overtures.