Obama to warn UN over Iran nuclear weapons

NEW YORK - President Barack Obama is to tell the UN General Assembly the US will "do what we must" to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, officials say.

The Middle East is set to dominate the summit in New York and the president will give one of the opening speeches.

In an address six weeks before the US presidential election, he is expected to say that a nuclear-armed Iran "is not a challenge that can be contained".

He is also set to condemn the violence that erupted over an anti-Islam video.

In a tribute to the US ambassador to Libya murdered in Benghazi, President Obama will challenge the UN to affirm that "our future will be determined by people like Christopher Stevens, and not by his killers", according to excerpts from Tuesday's speech released by the White House.

"Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations," he will say.

The UN General Assembly is likely to be dominated by the recent protests across the Muslim world in response to the US-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad, as well as Iran's nuclear programme and the 18-month conflict in Syria.

In his address, the president will vow that "the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," with the backing of "a coalition of countries" holding Tehran accountable.

President Barack Obama's comments on Iran's nuclear programme are in large part a re-statement of what he has said before.

Last March he noted that he would "take no options off the table" when it came to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. "I do not have a policy of containment," he said.

Some six months later the message is little different. It falls short of the clearly defined red lines apparently demanded by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But Mr Netanyahu's insistence came close to prompting a crisis in US-Israel relations. He may now have to be content with stating his view of the potential red lines in his own UN speech. Mr Obama is clearly not going to announce publicly a trigger for war with Iran.

Although the White House said the president's address should not be considered a campaign speech, it follows critical remarks about his foreign policy from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

His presidential rival condemned Mr Obama's description of the murder of Mr Stevens and three other Americans as "bumps in the road". He has also castigated him for not taking time out to hold talks on Iran during the summit with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Obama has rejected the Israeli leader's calls for Washington to set Tehran "red lines".

Mr Netanyahu has recently appeared on US television to press for a tougher line on Iran, and he will take the same message to the General Assembly on Thursday.

Tehran says its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes.

On the eve of the assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a UN meeting that Israel was a "fake regime", prompting Israel's UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, to walk out.
'Extremely bad'

Syria's 18-month conflict is not formally on the General Assembly's agenda but it is likely to be addressed by several speakers on the opening day, including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, French President Francois Hollande and Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi at Al Zaatri refugee camp in Jordan (18 Sept 2012) UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has just visited Damascus and refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey

Mr Hollande, in his first appearance at the assembly, is also expected to call for backing for an international force to be sent to the West African state of Mali to help dislodge Islamist militants who have taken over the north of the country.

The UN Security Council has been unable to reach agreement on the Syria crisis and on Monday UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned that the situation was "extremely bad and getting worse".

While he did not have a full plan, he said he had "a few ideas". Mr Brahimi has just visited Damascus as well as refugee camps in neighbouring Jordan and Turkey.

The BBC's Barbara Plett says that diplomats have played down expectations for Mr Brahimi's mission, with no sign of fundamental divisions on the council being bridged.

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