Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Obama: World failing to deal with challenges

UNITED NATIONS — President Barack Obama exhorted world leaders on Wednesday to step up and do their part in tackling global challenges in promoting security and prosperity rather than waiting for America to do it alone.

"The people of the world want change," Obama said in his first address to the U.N. General Assembly. "They will not long tolerate those who are on the wrong side of history."

In an era where fast-moving technology binds people across borders and old divides, Obama called for "a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

Obama said he will never apologize for defending U.S. interests. But he sought to dispel what he said has become "an almost reflexive anti-Americanism" that has swept the globe.

To do so, Obama offered a litany of policy changes and actions his administration had undertaken during his first nine months in office, with the overarching message that the United States has no interest in a go-it-alone stance and instead wants to act as an equal partner with others on the world stage.

"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 an address that carried a remarkably blunt tone.

"The time has come for the world to move in a new direction," Obama said. "Our work must begin now."

"In an era where our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game," Obama said. "No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. That is the future America wants."

He spoke to a packed chamber at the United Nations, receiving applause when he entered from even the likes of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not join in the applause. Throughout Obama's remarks, the president received polite applause several times.

Obama called on fellow leaders to help bring about a nuclear weapons-free world, to increase security from terrorists and promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to tackle climate change and to create more economic opportunity.

He said that Iran and North Korea "must be held accountable" if they continue to put their pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of international security.

"The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise and that treaties will be enforced."

Obama has said the door is open to Iran to discuss the issue, but that U.S. patience is not limitless. He has taken the same position with respect to the reclusive communist regime in North Korea.

On the warming planet, he said "the danger posed by climate change cannot be denied — and our responsibility to meet it must not be deferred."

The president said "this is why the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over." He said he understood the temptation of nations to put economic recovery from recession ahead of work to address climate change, but said that must not be allowed to happen.

Afghan president to skip UN meeting
Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, has decided not to attend the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York this week, officials have said.

Karzai's office told Al Jazeera on Monday that Karzai had cancelled the trip because of the ongoing political uncertainty in the country.

Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said: "What we're getting from the president's office is that Karzai is deciding to stay in Afghanistan because of the political situation.

"The president had hinted a few days ago in a press conference that he may not be going.

"What he told reporters was that the meetings with the United Nations are not important. It's more important for me to be in Afghanistan at this sensitive time."

Meetings at the UN General Assembly were due to start in New York on Tuesday and the developments in Afghanistan were on their agenda.

Disputed election

The UN meeting would have been Karzai's first trip abroad since the presidential election one month ago.

No official election result has yet been announced and there have been widespread allegations of vote fraud.

Preliminary results have given Karzai 54.6 per cent of the vote, enough to avoid a second round runoff against his main rival Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, who has 27.7 per cent.

But election observers from the European Union have said that up to 1.5 million of the ballots could be fraudulent, leaving open the possibility for a dramatic swing in fortunes if the ballots are annulled after the investigation.

The UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has ordered recounts at more than 2,500 polling stations, around 10 per cent of the total, after it found "clear and convincing evidence of fraud".