Morsi, Middle East Take Center Stage at UN General Assembly
by VOA News September 26, 2012
Events in the Middle East held center stage Wednesday as several regional leaders took to the podium at the United National General Assembly, a session highlighted by the appearances of two presidents who took office after the Arab Spring uprisings.
In a speech closely watched by world leaders, Egypt's newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, outlined his vision for his country's fledgling democracy, his support for the Palestinians' cause, and a desire for a regional solution to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
"The bloodshed in Syria and the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded, must be stopped," he said, adding that Egypt intends to play a key role in mediation and rejects military intervention.
"The blood that is shed in this country that is dear and near to us is far too valuable to continue to be shed, and the Syrian people, dear to our hearts, deserve to hope for a future of freedom and dignity," Morsi said, speaking from prepared remarks.
As for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Morsi said the U.N. must find a way to provide "immediate and significant measures to put an end to colonization, settlement activities, and the alteration in the identity of Occupied Jerusalem."
The Israeli delegation did not attend Wednesday's session at the U.N. as it coincided with the Yom Kippur high holy day. Israel says negotiations with the Palestinians must not come with preconditions.
Morsi, an Islamist and key figure in the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood which has assumed political dominance in Egypt, also said he will work to strengthen "mutual understanding between Islamic countries and the rest of the world."
Morsi's appearance came after another Arab leader made his first appearance at the U.N. General Assembly's annual gathering.
Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who took office in February after more than a year of political turmoil, called on the U.N. to grant membership to Palestine and support a transfer of power in Syria.
Hadi said that Syria's only option is to agree on an initiative for a peaceful change and a transfer of power through elections.
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the General Assembly by calling the conflict in Syria "a regional calamity with global ramifications." He accused both the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition of crimes against humanity.
Iran, meanwhile, took its opportunity on the U.N. stage to slam its hosts.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad leveled harsh criticism against the U.N. Security Council, saying it is "under the domination" of a few governments.
Iran is under U.N. sanctions for its controversial nuclear program. World powers suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons but Tehran says its nuclear goals are peaceful.
Ahmadinejad said an existence of discrimination in the world body was a "great insult to all." He also said the veto rights of some nations and what he called a "monopolization" of power had made it impossible for the Security Council to defend the rights of nations.
Ahmadinejad spoke a day after U.S. President Barack Obama, in his address to the General Assembly, restated warnings that the United States and its allies would not allow Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon. Mr. Obama added that time was running out to reach a diplomatic solution.
The U.S. delegation boycotted Mr. Ahmadinejad's speech, his last address to the General Assembly as Iran's president.
Ahmadinejad's second presidential term ends next June. Under Iranian law, he cannot run for a third term.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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