President Obama on Tuesday denounced Iran’s nuclear program and the recent violence in Libya and other parts of the Middle East that left four Americans dead. At the annual gathering of the U.N. General Assembly, Obama reaffirmed his willingness to even use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring an effective nuclear weapon, but stressed that there is still time for diplomatic talks to work their magic.
“Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” President Obama said. But “time is not unlimited.”
Watch Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at The Brookings Institution and author of Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy, talk about his hopes for a reduced global nuclear arsenal:
WATCH: Challenges in the ‘Rough Neighborhood’ Middle East Post-Arab Spring
In his remarks, Obama condemned the recent violence in Libya that led to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. compound in Beghazi, saying Stevens was only there to help the Libyan people. Stevens arrived in Libya at the early days of the revolution, arriving on a cargo ship, the president said.
“He helped the Libyan people as they coped with the Libyan conflict, cared for the wounded and crafted a vision for the future in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected,” Obama said. Stevens was in Benghazi to look over plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital when he was killed in what the Obama administration is calling a terror attack on Sept. 11, 2012. “Chris Stevens embodied the best of America,” Obama added.
He also called the video that allegedly sparked much of the violence, “Innocence of Muslims,” “crude and disgusting.” But “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 a school in Tunis,” Obama said, calling on world leaders in those countries to also condemn such acts.
“In this modern world with modern technologies, for us to respond in that way to hateful speech empowers any individual who engages in such speech to create chaos around the world. We empower the worst of us if that’s how we respond.”
During the U.N. meeting, which lasts through October 1, world leaders will discuss a number of humanitarian issues, including poverty, global warming, women’s empowerment and the prospect of renewed conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa. The violence in the Middle East and the 18-month civil war in Syria are expected to remain center stage.
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