In his maiden address before the UN General Assembly, President Barack Obama says Iran could play a significant role in shaping the future of the world and its security, should it abandon “the pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
President Obama told world leaders on Wednesday that his government was committed to a new era of engagement to tackle global problems, ranging from climate change to peacemaking in the Middle East, insisting that the international community should take a larger role.
“We have sought – in word and deed – a new era of engagement with the world,” he said. “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”
On the issue of nuclear non-proliferation, Obama suggested that the US was eager to take a step toward a world without nuclear weapons. He said that his government was ready to work with Russia on arms reduction as well as joining in discussions of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the US has refused to sign, the New York Times reported.
He, however, warned the leaders of Iran and North Korea that their nuclear programs would take the world down a “dangerous slope” with the prospects of arms race rising in East Asia and the Middle East.
North Korea, which unlike Iran has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has openly tested nuclear weapons and declared its possession of such arms.
Iran, on the other hand, says its nuclear program is a civilian one and has called for the removal of all weapons of mass destruction around the globe.
The West, spearheaded by the US and Israel, however, accuse Tehran of pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program.
During his address, President Obama said he supported diplomacy with North Korea and Iran to open “a path to greater prosperity and a more secure peace for both nations if they live up to their obligations.”
“But if the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards, if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people, if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East,” he said, adding, “Then they must be held accountable.”
President Obama then asked the world leaders to demonstrate to Iran and North Korea that international law is not an “empty promise.”
“We must insist that the future not belong to fear,” he said.
As he spoke, his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who stayed for all of Obama’s speech, displayed no visible reaction.
Ahmadinejad, who has been regularly attending the UN gathering since taking power in 2005, is scheduled to address the General Assembly later in the day, following speeches by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
However, Ahmadinejad’s 2009 appearance, following the presidential election in June, is especially contentious since world powers are threatening further sanctions over the country’s nuclear program.
Furthermore, Israel, which has openly threatened to attack Iranian nuclear installations, has called on world leaders to stage a walk-out during President Ahmadinejad’s UN address.
“I think the fact that such brutal thugs, such barbaric dictators like Ahmadinejad, speak in front of the world assembly is a real low point in the annals of the United Nations,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Reuters.
“I think it will be incumbent on all decent countries and leaders to boycott this appearance and speech,” he added.
President Ahmadinejad has regularly condemned Israel over its treatment of Palestinians and has rejected the issue of Holocaust as a “myth”, raising the ire of officials in Tel Aviv.