Obama: No Video Justifies Attack On Embassy

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Addressing the U.N. General Assembly in New York City on Tuesday, President Obama told world leaders that there is no place for violence and intolerance. He has been struggling to contain widespread anger in the Muslim world sparked in part by an anti-Islam video. Is he making headway?


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

At the United Nations today, President Obama told world leaders that there's no place for violence and intolerance. The president has been struggling to contain widespread anger in the Muslim world, sparked in part by an anti-Islam video.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There's no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There's no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.

GREENE: President Obama, speaking just moments ago at the United Nations General Assembly. Let's bring in NPR's Michele Kelemen, who's covering those sessions.

Michele, good morning.


GREENE: So, pretty powerful words from the president this morning. Is he making headway getting this message across?

KELEMEN: Well, he's certainly trying. He made it very personal today, spending a good deal of time talking about Chris Stevens, who was the U.S. ambassador who was killed along with three other Americans in Libya. He said Stevens embodied the best of America and shared the ideals upon which the U.N. was founded. So the president said our future should be determined by people like Stevens, and not his killers.

He also talked a lot about how new technology allows people to spread hateful messages at a click of a button. So, while he said that can't be controlled, he also told world leaders that if they try to control it, they're basically empowering the worst of us and allowing them to spread chaos.

So it was a very powerful and personal message that everyone has a stake in fighting extremism, and it's a message that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been reinforcing privately. She's been meeting with a lot of world leaders on the sidelines at this General Assembly.

GREENE: One leader she's probably not going to meet with is Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is there. What are we expecting from him?

KELEMEN: Well, so far, it's been the same old Ahmadinejad. He's been calling Israel a fake regime with no historical roots in the region. The White House responded by pointing out that Ahmadinejad says, quote, "foolish, offensive and sometimes unintelligible things with great regularity." He'll be speaking to the general assembly tomorrow.

GREENE: And this comes, Michele, at a time when there's tension between Iran and Israel, and President Obama did speak about Iran in his speech.

KELEMEN: That's right. He said that there is time for diplomacy, that - but the time is not unlimited. President Obama also said, make no mistake. A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. He said the U.S. will, quote, "do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

Now, Israel's prime minister is due here later in the week, and he's been pushing President Obama to spell out clear redlines for Iran on what would trigger military action. The president himself didn't lay out those sorts of clear lines, but he was clear that the U.S. is not going to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

GREENE: All right, Michele. Thanks so much.

KELEMEN: Thank you.

GREENE: That's NPR's Michele Kelemen, speaking to us from the United Nations.

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