Obama: ‘New Age’ Has Dawned
UNITED NATIONS - President Obama, who has pursued a diplomatic strategy of pursuing common ground with both allies and adversaries, offered a blunt message to world leaders assembled here Wednesday: Cooperation is a two-way street.
"Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone," Obama said in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
Hours later, Russia promised to get tougher on Iran's nuclear program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad then gave a fiery speech denouncing the United States.
After Obama emerged from discussions about Iran's nuclear program with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian told journalists he shared the American objective of preventing Iran "from obtaining nuclear weapons."
Medvedev, whose country is a major Iran trading partner and has resisted additional sanctions, also said that "in some cases sanctions are inevitable."
That is "a very big change in their position," said Michael McFaul, Obama's chief Russia expert on the National Security Council.
Medvedev also praised Obama's recent decision to scrap a plan for long-range missile defense in Central Europe, which Russia opposed. McFaul insisted that move wasn't made to please the Russians, but said it had that effect.
In his address to the U.N., Obama said he has ushered in "a new era of engagement with the world." He inventoried his policies that are popular abroad, including prohibiting torture, withdrawing troops from Iraq and confronting climate change.
Given all that, he said, "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges. If we are honest with ourselves, we need to admit that we are not living up to that responsibility."
Obama's address, which combined policy prescriptions with soaring rhetoric, contrasted sharply with the speech by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Gadhafi followed Obama with a rambling, 90-minute talk denouncing the U.N. Security Council as dominated by powerful nations, and he ripped a copy of the U.N. charter.
"It should not be called the Security Council," he said through a translator. "It should be called the terror council."
Ahmadinejad spoke in the evening and said he was committed to working toward world peace, but he did not mention his nuclear program, which is suspected of building an atomic weapon. He lashed out at the "inhuman policies" of Israel and said the United States possesses a worldview based on "aggression, occupation and deception." The U.S. delegation walked out.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs later told reporters Obama was trying "challenge the body to meet its responsibilities." Obama said that if Iran and North Korea continue to pursue nuclear weapons, "then they must be held accountable."
Those assembled in the hall applauded at the conclusion of the speech; the Iranian delegation, including Ahmadinejad, did not.