Obama Calls for End to Extremism, Criticizes Syria

Posted September 25th, 2012 at 8:50 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama told the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday to “speak out forcefully against violence and extremism.”

Mr. Obama dedicated much of his annual speech to world leaders on the violent protests sparked by a privately produced anti-Muslim video shot in the United States.

He said the world can only make progress by pursuing tolerance and freedom, and urged his fellow leaders to marginalize those who use hatred as a political weapon.

Mr. Obama called the amateur video crude and disgusting, but said it did not justify the spilling of any innocent blood — including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, who with three others was killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

The U.S. president also renewed calls for an end to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He said that country's future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people.

Syria also was on the mind of Jordan's King Abdullah, whose country is hosting more than 200,000 Syrian refugees. The king told delegates the refugee crisis is putting heavy pressure on Jordan's limited resources. He appealed for international help, saying the cold desert winter is approaching.

On Wednesday, the General Assembly is expected to hear from the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the General Assembly by calling the civil war in Syria “a regional calamity with global ramifications.” He accused both the Assad government and the opposition of crimes against humanity. Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani urged Arab nations to intervene in Syria, saying the Security Council has failed to stop the violence.