UNITED NATIONS — President Obama on Thursday told world leaders gathered in New York that he has followed through on his vow one year ago to embrace the international body, and argued his policy of engagement has allowed the United States to make progress on nuclear non-proliferation and other key issues.
Mr. Obama also used his second address to the U.N. General Assembly as president to prod Iran, saying the latest round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran are a result of Iran's defiance of international weapons inspection treaties. He did so while reiterating that cooperation is still possible if Iranian leaders agree to cooperate.
"Iran is the only party to the [Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty] that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences," Mr. Obama said. "The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment, and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program."
The president devoted a good portion of his remarks to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning that "terror" and "petty politics" must not stand in the way of a peace agreement that would create a Palestinian state. He implored allies of both parties to move expeditiously to support a settlement.
"The conflict between Israelis and Arabs is as old as this institution. And we can come back here, next year, as we have for the last 60, and make long speeches about it," Mr. Obama said. "We can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life. Or, we can say that this time will be different — that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way."
Any agreement, however, must leave Israel's sovereignty and right to exist unquestioned, Mr. Obama warned.
"It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel's legitimacy will only be met by the unshakable opposition of the United States," he said. "And efforts to threaten or kill Israelis will do nothing to help the Palestinian people — the slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance, it is injustice."
At the same time, Mr. Obama said harmony will require an independent state "that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity."
Mr. Obama made the case for promoting democracy around the world, saying while different countries will adopt different forms, democratic governance remains the best way to secure human rights. He warned that the economic downturn has led some leaders to consolidate power and roll back political freedoms.
"Today, as in past times of economic downturn, some put human rights aside for the promise of short-term stability, or the false notion that economic growth can come at the expense of freedom," he said. "Yet experience shows us that history is on the side of liberty — that the strongest foundation for human progress lies in open economies, open societies and open governments. To put it simply: Democracy, more than any other form of government, delivers for our citizens. And that truth will only grow stronger in a world where the borders between nations are blurred."
Mr. Obama described the United Nations as "indispensable" on human rights, particularly the empowerment of women, and called on member-nations to speak out against curbs on freedom elsewhere.
He also said he is optimistic about the future despite a "difficult decade."
"I stand here before you confident in the future — a future where Iraq is governed by neither a tyrant nor a foreign power, and Afghanistan is freed from the turmoil of war; a future where the children of Israel and Palestine can build the peace that was not possible for their parents, and the promise of development reaches into the prisons of poverty and disease; a future where the cloud of recession gives way to the light of renewal; and the dream of opportunity is available to all," he said.
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Kara Rowland, White House reporter for The Washington Times, is a D.C.-area native. She graduated from the University of Virginia, where she studied American government and spent nearly all her waking hours working as managing editor of the Cavalier Daily, UVa.’s student newspaper.
Her interest in political reporting was piqued by an internship at Roll Call the summer before her ...
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