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Obama Seeks Tough Syria Resolution, Iran Diplomacy at U.N.

U.S. President Obama on Tuesday addresses the 68th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York (AP Photo/Seth Wenig). U.S. President Obama on Tuesday addresses the 68th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York (AP Photo/Seth Wenig).

President Obama on Tuesday insisted a U.N. Security Council agreement to rid civil war-torn Syria of its chemical weapons must include the threat of military strikes against President Bashar Assad if he doesn’t comply with such an international mandate, according to the Associated Press.

In a high-profile speech before the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Obama also confirmed that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry this week will hold fresh talks with Iran about its nuclear ambitions.

Obama told the international gathering that the United States “is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our interests” in the Middle East and North Africa, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Regarding Syria, the Obama administration wants the 15-member U.N. Security Council to swiftly approve a resolution that legally forces Assad to relinquish control of his regime’s estimated 1,000 ton-chemical arsenal and allow it to be destroyed. However, Syrian ally Russia has veto power over the council and has said it will not allow the passage of any measure that threatens foreign-military attacks on Syria.

Obama noted during his U.N. address how the threat of limited U.S. military strikes on Syria led to talks with Russia that yielded a still-tenuous agreement for Assad to turn over his government’s chemical weapons for destruction.

“Without a credible military threat, the Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all,” the president said, according to the New York Times. “If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the U.N. is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws. 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.”

He further said the United States will provide an additional $339 million for humanitarian aid to people and countries impacted by Syrian fighting, boosting such U.S. funding to almost $1.4 billion.

Meanwhile, Obama’s late-morning address emphasized his administration’s wish for stronger diplomatic ties with Iran. He spoke positively of the “more-moderate course” Iran has been taking, under the leadership of its new president, Western-friendly Hassan Rouhani.

Obama said Kerry will pursue a diplomatic solution with Iran over its nuclear-development efforts, which the Middle Eastern nation says are peaceful in nature but Western powers fear are focused on developing weapons. Kerry and officials from five other countries will meet Thursday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, the U.S. president announced.

Obama said Rouhani's “conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.”

“The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested,” Obama said about relations with Iran.

Obama used the speech to outline his broad goals for U.S. foreign policy and military engagement in the Middle East and North Africa, Defense One reported.

The United States, "will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction" in the region,” he said. "Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security, we reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, and undermine the global non-proliferation regime."

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