View gallery U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive in New York, where Obama will attend …NEW YORK (Reuters) – President Barack Obama says he quit smoking for a reason that many husbands can relate to: „I’m scared of my wife.”The president’s quip about first lady Michelle Obama was picked up on an open microphone on Monday as he spoke to a U.N. official at an event in New York.Obama said he had probably not had a cigarette in six years. He is known to chew Nicorette gum to reduce the craving for nicotine.(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Xavier Briand)
View gallery U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in …UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday mentioned Iranian victims of chemical weapons in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly in what seemed a gesture to the new government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.In his address, Obama said the global consensus against the use of chemical weapons had been strengthened by memories of „soldiers suffering in trenches, Jews slaughtered in gas chambers, Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands.”(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Bill Trott)
Obama: U.S. wary but ‘encouraged’ by Iran’s new toneOlivier Knox, Yahoo News 19 minutes ago
View galleryU.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in …President Barack Obama told world leaders gathered in New York on Tuesday that he was “encouraged” by Iran’s new, less confrontational tone and had ordered a new diplomatic push to defuse the volatile standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.“The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested,” Obama said in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly.“But to succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable,” he said.In addition to the Iranian nuclear dispute, the president also vowed to redouble efforts to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.“While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace,” he said.And he bluntly warned the United Nations that it must threaten — and enforce — consequences on Syria if President Bashar Assad reneges on a framework to turn his chemical weapons over to international control for destruction.“The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles. Now there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments — and there must be consequences if they fail to do so,” Obama declared.“If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws,” the president said. “On the other hand, if we succeed, it will send a powerful message that the use of chemical weapons has no place in the 21st century and that this body means what it says.”Obama’s remarks came amid intense scrutiny of the U.S. response to Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s outreach toward the United States since his election.U.S. officials have ruled out a formal sit-down meeting between Obama and Rouhani, who answers to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. But they have left the door open to a brief handshake meeting. That would be a historic step: American and Iranian leaders have not had such a cordial encounter since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.Obama came into office vowing to reach out to — and even sit down with — leaders of countries at odds with the United States. But his optimism quickly shattered. Top Obama aides have warily watched Iranians cast off volcanic former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in hopes of an opening.“We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course,” Obama said. “And given President Rouhani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government, in close cooperation with the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.”That group, known in diplomatic circles as the P5+1, has provided the framework for talks over Iran’s suspected efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies seeking an atomic arsenal and says it needs the program to provide energy.“We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy,” Obama said. “We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful.”Israel, meanwhile, has argued for skepticism toward Iranian overtures — and specifically the notion that Rouhani is a moderate force. On Tuesday, the Israeli Embassy to Washington produced a parody LinkedIn profile for the Iranian president to undercut Tehran’s outreach.In his section about Middle East peace, Obama had reassuring words for the staunch American ally.“I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state,” he said.Just weeks ago, newly declassified documents confirmed the widely held belief that the CIA played a central role in the 1951 coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh — a defining crisis that has long fueled Iranian mistrust of the United States. (Interestingly, the term “Islamofascist” that came into vogue in some conservative circles after the attacks of Sept. 11 appears to have first found its way into the news in a January 1979 Washington Post article about the Iranian revolution.)
UN chief warns against fuelling Syria bloodshedView galleryUnited Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, on September 24, 2013. Ban has called on states to stop sending weapons to the Syria conflict as the United States and Russia wrangled over destroying Syria’s chemical weapons. (AFP Photo/Spencer Platt)Shaun Tandon 53 minutes ago UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called on states to stop sending weapons to the Syria conflict as the United States and Russia wrangled over destroying Syria’s chemical weapons.”I appeal to all states to stop fuelling the bloodshed and to end the arms flows to all parties,” Ban said as he opened the annual UN General Assembly.Russia is the key arms provider to President Bashar al-Assad while Syria accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states of arming opposition rebels.The UN chief also called on Assad and the rebels — and „all those in this hall with influence over them” — to press for a peace conference to end the war that has left more than 100,000 dead.”Military victory is an illusion. The only answer is a political settlement,” he told world leaders.Ban’s appeal came as the United States and Russia haggled over a Security Council resolution to back an agreement for Assad to give up chemical weapons.”I look forward to the imminent adoption of an enforceable Security Council resolution on chemical weapons,” Ban said.”This should be followed immediately by humanitarian action,” he said.US Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov later in New York on Tuesday to discuss the UN resolution and their joint chemical disarmament plan.A top Russian diplomat said that the resolution could be enforced under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.Russia had earlier accused the United States and its allies of using „blackmail” at the United Nations by seeking approval for military force.Ban voiced hope for progress in ending the 30-month civil war in Syria following the August 21 chemical attack near Damascus, which the United States estimates killed 1,400 people.”The response to the heinous use of chemical weapons has created diplomatic momentum — the first signs of unity in far too long,” Ban said.”Now we must build on it to get the parties to the negotiating table,” he said.Ban noted that „the vast majority” of the more than 100,000 dead in Syria were killed by conventional weapons.”We can hardly be satisfied with destroying chemical weapons while the wider war is still destroying Syria,” Ban said.”It is time to end the killing and reach the peace the Syrian people need and deserve,” he said.US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande had initially called for military action against Syria in response to the chemical attack, calling for accountability.But the prospect of intervention was unpopular among Western publics in the wake of the Iraq war, with Britain’s parliament refusing to back the use of force and a number of US lawmakers urging a non-military response.Ban called for „full accountability for serious international crimes” — either through the International Criminal Court in The Hague „or by other means consistent with international law.”Ban also returned to some of his key themes of encouraging development and fighting climate change.The UN chief invited heads of state to a UN summit on climate change in September 2014 — one year ahead of talks in Paris that have set the goal of a post-Kyoto Protocol treaty.”The world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, who are being harmed first and worst, are crying out for climate justice,” Ban said.
Iran says no Rowhani, Obama meeting on agenda TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran said Tuesday there were no plans for a meeting between President Hassan Rowhani and his American counterpart Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly.”Such a meeting is not on the agenda,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told reporters when asked about the White House not ruling out the possibility of a landmark encounter in New York.”The right situation must present itself for this meeting. Our assessment is that it has not been presented yet,” she said, adding that Iran did not want to commit to such a gesture „just for the principle of meeting each other.”The White House said Monday there were no plans for Obama and Rowhani to meet but did not rule it out.”We are open to engagement with the Iranian government on a variety of levels provided that they will follow through on their commitment to address the international community’s concern on their nuclear program,” deputy US national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.An encounter between the two leaders could signal a shift in relations between their countries, which have had no diplomatic ties for over three decades and are sharply divided over Iran’s nuclear programme.While some high-level contacts have been made in recent years, there have been no meetings at the level of president since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.Tehran and Washington are deadlocked on a number of issues, including Iran’s controversial nuclear ambitions as well as its support for the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.Washington and other Western nations have long accused Iran of seeking an atomic weapon under the guise of its civilian nuclear programme, charges adamantly denied by Tehran.