West turns up heat on Iran, Syria at UN

2012-09-26 09:00

New York - Western and Arab leaders ramped up the pressure on Syria and Iran at the United Nations on Tuesday, as US President Barack Obama vowed to keep Tehran from getting its hands on nuclear weapons.

The United States, France and Qatar led the charge as the West and its allies attempted to use the UN General Assembly to win support for tougher international action against the Middle East's twin pariah regimes.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon set the tone, condemning the bloodshed in Syria, where the beleaguered regime is battling an armed revolt and subjecting its citizens to what the UN peace envoy dubbed "medieval forms of torture".

Under pressure from his domestic rivals to take a tough stance, Obama went further, declaring: "The regime of Bashar Assad must come to an end so the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin."

The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, a key supporter of the Syrian opposition, called for an Arab military intervention.

"It is better for Arab countries themselves to intervene out of their humanitarian, political and military duties and do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed," he told the General Assembly.

Protected areas

A US State Department official said the United States will soon announce an increase in its aid to the Syrian rebels, but would still stop short of sending weapons and ammunition.

And French President Francois Hollande urged the United Nations to declare protected areas in "liberated zones" under opposition control in Syria so that humanitarian aid could reach refugees.

Obama was also unequivocal on Iran, which is locked in a standoff with the West over a nuclear programme that Washington alleges is designed to produce a weapon that could tip the balance of power in an already volatile region.

"Make no mistake. A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy," Obama warned.

"That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he declared.

Hollande also took a tough line on Iran, accusing it of supplying weapons and men to Assad to prop up his regime and dubbing this "unacceptable".
Outreach to Muslims

Six weeks before his re-election bid is decided, Obama is under pressure on the foreign policy front, with criticism of his handling of the killing of US diplomats and claims he is not standing closely enough behind Israel.

His speech aimed to counter those claims from White House rival Mitt Romney and also renew his outreach to the Muslim world after two weeks of anti-American violence triggered by an online video that insulted Islam.

Obama said the Arab Spring would lead to improved democracy and living standards in a Middle East region more in line with US values but, while he condemned the film, he insisted no insults could justify violence.

He vowed that the militants who stormed the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September, killing the American ambassador to Libya and three colleagues, would face justice, and said the United States would always defend free speech.

"There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy," he said.

"There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan," he said.


Debate in New York in the run-up to the assembly focused on the violence in Syria and the risk that the Iranian stand-off could lead to a broader conflict if Israel or the United States launched a pre-emptive strike.

Ban spoke for many delegates when he called on world powers to put aside their differences and unite behind a plan to pressure the parties to settle their conflicts through negotiation.

The UN chief dubbed the Syria conflict "a regional calamity with global ramifications" and said: "The international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control."

"We must stop the violence and flow of arms to both sides and set in motion a Syrian-led transition as soon as possible," Ban added.

The 15-nation Security Council has become paralysed by deadlock over the 18-month-old war, which Syrian activists say has left more than 29 000 dead.

Ban also expressed concerns for the mounting tensions surrounding Iran, denouncing what he called: "The shrill war talk of recent weeks."

While Obama took no option off the table in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions, Ban called on the United Nations to reject threats of military action, warning: "Any such attacks would be devastating."

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is in New York, shrugged off talk of an attack on his country's nuclear facilities and said the Islamic republic would not end what it claims is peaceful civilian nuclear research.

  • customdesign - 2012-09-26 09:33

    If you stop the flow of arms to the Syrian Rebels they will be sitting ducks for the government forces and there will be more deaths as a result.

  • Fidel - 2012-09-26 10:02

    The west and democratic Qatar are impotent to do anything against Iran or Syria!

  • Jeremy.Traygon.Opperman - 2012-09-26 10:17

    All this because Iran was going to sell oil to the Euro instead of the Dollar... Double standards though, as the US is the only country to drop 2 nukes on civilian cities and they have the gall to think they can decide who can have these weapons besides them?

      Mark - 2012-09-26 11:06

      It is not just the Americans who have decided that Iran should not have nuclear weapons, all other countries surrounding Iran don't want these religious wack-jobs to acquire "the bomb" either.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-26 11:11

      "all other countries surrounding Israel" don't want these zionist wack-jobs to hold on to "the bomb" either.

  • shane.loxton - 2012-09-26 13:05

    A French Surgeon who worked at a hospital in Aleppo admits that at least half of the militants he treated for injuries were Al-Qaeda terrorists whose goal is to impose sharia law across Syria and the whole region. These are the same rebels being funded to the tune of tens of million of dollars by the Obama administration. During an interview with France Info, Jacques Bérès, founder of Doctors Without Borders, said that although the city of Aleppo is portrayed as a rebel stronghold, it still has many areas that are loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Bérès added that most of the people he treated were fighters and relatively few were civilians or children. This contradicts the claim routinely made by establishment media outlets that the Syrian government is indiscriminately bombing its own citizens. Asked if the fighters he treated were Jihadists or Salafists, Bérès responded, “I would say at least half of them are Salafist Jihadists with the headband with Quranic verses, even the cars transporting them had Al-Qaeda flags on them, and the Salafist look with the mustache gone while keeping a beard.”

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-26 13:28

      "During an interview with France Info, Jacques Bérès, founder of Doctors Without Borders, said that although the city of Aleppo is portrayed as a rebel stronghold, it still has many areas that are loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad." 70% of Aleppo to be exact is against these terrorists and this is based on the FSA's own admission. Similary Christains in that country have taken up arms for the first time to protect their neighbourhoods from these freedom loving rebels.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-09-26 13:41 Might help explain the Al-quaeda terror groups in Syria.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-26 13:58 Explains the Al Qaeda terror groups in Syria!

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-09-26 15:37

      You might notice it doesn't explain Al-quaeda groups in Syria , it barely paraphrases quotes from Al-quaeda video's and the rest is selective quotes from Bush to manufacture a point . It makes Fox news seem robotic in its objectivity and professional journalism although it should be judged as a opinion piece and not a news article.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-09-26 17:59

      Fidel, 70% of Aleppo to be """exact""" is against these terrorists and this is based on the FSA's own admission............ Johhhhhhhhh, you can talk a lot of rubbish !!!!!! Who told you that the FSA said so ???? RT ????

      shane.loxton - 2012-09-26 21:55

      Toos here's your 70% ---> yrian rebels fight on for Aleppo despite local wariness Rebels say 70% of city is with regime, but exchanges with the few remaining residents who venture on to streets are civil A Free Syrian Army fighter runs for cover in the al-Jadeida neighbourhood of Aleppo. Photograph: Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images Martin Chulov in Aleppo, Tue 21 Aug 2012 18.53 BST Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on email More Sharing Services 17 More than a month into the battle for Aleppo, the rebels who seized control of much of the city sense that its residents do not yet fully support them. Opposition fighters – around 3,000 of them – are almost the only people moving around the eastern half that the Free Syrian Army now controls. The small numbers of non-fighters who remain seem to pay them little heed. Few seem openly welcoming. "

  • shane.loxton - 2012-09-26 13:14

    The Syrian take down was always a agenda of the US:-

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-09-26 13:36

      Shock at something they weren't hiding considering the Syrian regime was pumping islamic insurgents into Iraq for many years(to hold hands and sing of course).

      tom.guy.37669528 - 2012-09-26 16:24

      Saying it how it it is.

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