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Obama Demands Syria Action, Diplomacy With Iran

by VOA News September 24, 2013

U.S. President Barack Obama is calling for internationally agreed-upon consequences if the Syrian government fails to follow through with giving up its chemical weapons.

Addressing world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the president said the international community must enforce its ban on chemical weapons, saying there needs to be a strong U.N. resolution to verify President Bashar al-Assad's government is keeping its commitments.

His speech came just hours before a scheduled address by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who on Monday urged Western leaders Monday to engage Iran and ease painful economic sanctions against his country.

While U.S. officials say there is no meeting scheduled between Obama and Rouhani while they are in New York, they have not ruled out the possibility. Obama has said he is directing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a diplomatic agreement on Iran's nuclear program, saying the roadblocks for a resolution 'may prove to be too great,' but that he firmly believes 'the diplomatic path must be tested.'

U.S. and Iranian government heads have not met since before the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.

Obama also said the United States is also determined to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying 'the time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace.' But he said all sides must be willing to take risks, adding that friends of Israel must recognize that the country's security depends upon the realization of a Palestinian state.

Obama also said Arab states must recognize that stability can only be achieved through a two-state solution with a secure Israel.

Obama said he believes the United States is 'exceptional' in its willingness to stand up for not only its interests, but the interests of all, stressed that the United States is prepared to use all elements of its power, including military force, to secure its interests in the Middle East.

Earlier Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged the Security Council to adopt an 'enforceable' resolution on the U.S.-Russian agreement to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control for future destruction. Ban appealed to world leaders to stop sending weapons to Syria, referring to such action as 'fueling the bloodshed.'

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