By BEN FELLER and NANCY BENAC
UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Confronting global tumult and Muslim anger, President Barack Obama exhorted world leaders Tuesday to stand fast against violence and extremism, arguing that protecting religious rights and free speech must be a universal responsibility and not just an American obligation.
“The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained,” Obama warned the U.N. General Assembly in an urgent call to action underscored by the high stakes for all nations.
The gloomy backdrop for Obama’s speech – a world riven by deadly protests against an anti-Islamic video, by war in Syria, by rising tension over a nuclear Iran and more – marked the dramatic shifts that have occurred in the year since the General Assembly’s last ministerial meeting, when democratic uprisings in the Arab world created a sense of excitement and optimism. Obama had tough words for Iran and condemned anew the violence in Syria as Bashar al-Assad tries to retain power.