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Middle East

Hollande and Obama condemn Syria’s Assad at UN

Video by Stephen CARROLL

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2012-09-26

In his first ever speech at the UN Tuesday, French President François Hollande joined US President Barack Obama in calling for an end to Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Hollande also slammed the UN Security Council for its “inertia” on the issue.

French President François Hollande told world leaders gathered at the United Nations on Tuesday that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had “no future” and reiterated that France would recognise an opposition government as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people as soon as one was formed.

“I am sure of one thing, the Syrian regime will never find its place among the community of nations. It has no future among us. That is why France will recognise a provisional government representing the new free Syria once it has been formed,” Hollande said at the opening of the UN General Assembly.

A speech to win over old friends

During his first ever speech at the annual gathering at the UN’s headquarters in New York, the French president lashed out at the UN Security Council for its “inertia” on the political crisis in Syria.

'Paralysis' at UN

“Everyday more than 4,000 men, women and children become victims of blind repression. How can we continue to accept the paralysis of the UN?” Hollande asked.

The regime of President Assad has brutally cracked down on anti-government protests that started last March and is now struggling for control in a bloody civil war. France has previously stated that Assad has lost legitimacy and has called on Syria’s fractured opposition to form a unified transitional government.

“I request that the United Nations immediately offer the Syrian people all the help it has requested and that it protect liberated areas, while ensuring humanitarian aid to refugees,” said Hollande.

The French president’s speech came hours after US President Barack Obama called for an end to the Assad regime during his speech. "As we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop and a new dawn can begin," said Obama, calling for harmony among Syria’s Sunnis, Alawites, Christians and Kurds in Syria.

"That is the outcome that we will work for, with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute and assistance and support for those who work for this common good," he said.

One of the strongest calls for action on Syria came from Qatar’s ruler. Reflecting growing frustration with the UN Security Council's deadlock on Syria, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani told the assembly that it is time for Arab nations to take matters into their own hands and "interfere" in Syria. He did not offer details.

Obama defends free speech

In his address to the UN General Assembly Tuesday, Obama condemned the recent attacks on US embassies and defended free speech in an address carefully crafted and forcefully delivered only six weeks ahead of presidential elections in which he is seeking re-election.

"There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy,” Obama said in reference to a wave of protests in majority-Muslim countries that were sparked by an amateur anti-Islam movie that was produced in California.

In the most violent assault, US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

"The attacks on our civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America. There should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice," Obama told the UN.

However, he also insisted that that free speech was protected by the US Constitution and that while the controversial film was “crude and disgusting” it could not justify killings.

"Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offence. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.

"Moreover, as president of our country, and commander-in-chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so."

Obama also said  the United States "will do what we must" to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons - a veiled threat of military force - one day after Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel would be "eliminated."

The US president reiterated his preference for a diplomatic solution but told Iran that "time is not unlimited."

Date created : 2012-09-25


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