Obama Addresses Syria, Middle East in UN Speech

The president says the U.S. will be engaged in the region for the "long haul."

Posted: 09/24/2013 11:42 AM EDT

In a policy-rich address before the General Assembly of the United Nations, President Obama focused largely on Syria, urging the U.N. Security Council to support a resolution that would enforce consequences if the nation fails to turn over its stockpile of chemical weapons.

"The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles. Now there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments. And there must be consequences if they fail to do so," Obama said. "If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations 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."

On Iran, Obama said that the United States wants to peacefully resolve concerns over that nation's nuclear program, but is determined to prevent the development of a nuclear weapon. He announced that he’s directed Secretary of State John Kerry to work with the European Union and the governments of United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China to engage in talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who has indicated a willingness to reach an agreement.

"The roadblocks may prove to be too great but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested," he said.

The president said that the U.S. will be involved in the Middle East region for "the long haul" to promote freedom and democracy, and help resolve sectarian tensions.

"I believe America must remain engaged for our own security, but I also believe the world is better for it. Some may disagree, but I believe America is exceptional, in part because we have shown a willingness, through the sacrifice of blood and treasure, to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest but for the interests of all," he said.

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(Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

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