Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Page 7 News List

World must face woes together: Obama

ENGAGEMENT In his first speech to the UN, the US leader made clear he was breaking with the unilateralist approach of former president George W. Bush’s administration


Seizing a chance to challenge the world, US President Barack Obama says the global community is failing its people and that fixing this is not “solely America’s endeavor.”

“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 a passage of the speech he was delivering yesterday to the UN General Assembly.

The White House released excerpts in advance that carried a remarkably blunt tone.

It comes in Obama’s first speech to this world body, a forum like none other for a leader hoping to wash away any lasting images of US unilateralism under former president George W. Bush.

In essence, Obama’s message was that he expects plenty in return for reaching out.

“We have sought in word and deed a new era of engagement with the world,” Obama said.

He said if the world is honest with itself, it has fallen woefully short.

“Extremists sowing terror in pockets of the world,” Obama said. “Protracted conflicts that grind on and on. Genocide and mass atrocities. More and more nations with nuclear weapons. Melting ice caps and ravaged populations. Persistent poverty and pandemic disease.”

“I say this not to sow fear, but to state a fact: The magnitude of our challenges has yet to be met by the measure of our action,” he said.

Obama’s speech was the centerpiece of a day in which he was also holding pivotal meetings with the new Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Obama foreshadowed his message to world leaders in a speech on Tuesday to the Clinton Global Initiative.

He spoke of nations interconnected by problems, whether a flu strain or an economic collapse or a drug trade that crosses borders.

“Just as no nation can wall itself off from the world, no one nation — no matter how large, no matter how powerful — can meet these challenges alone,” Obama said.

“The United States has dramatically changed the tone, the substance and the practice of our diplomacy at the United Nations,” said Susan Rice, Obama’s ambassador to the UN.

But multilateralism has its limits, particularly as national interests collide.

Obama needs the sway of Moscow and Beijing in getting tougher UN action against Tehran over its potential nuclear weapons program, but neither government is showing interest.

While other world leaders could push for peace in the Middle East, it was Obama who intervened in pulling together the Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday.

Obama’s day started with his meeting with Hatoyama, who has said he wants to shift Japan’s diplomatic stance from one that is less centered on Washington’s lead.

Later, Obama was meeting Medvedev. Their meeting comes just days following Obama’s decision to scrap a Bush-era missile defense plan in Eastern Europe that Moscow had deeply opposed, swapping it for a proposal the US says better targets any launch by Iran.

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