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Obama calls on world to push for Middle East peace

Thursday, September 23, 2010 09:41:52 PM, DPA

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Washington: US President Barack Obama called on the world Thursday to support the Middle East peace process while urging Arab states to do more to support the Palestinian government in the West Bank and to start taking real steps toward better ties with Israel.

Speaking at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, Obama urged nations to cast aside historical tension to focus on reaching a peace deal under the direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians that began earlier this month.

"We can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life. We can do that," he said. "Or, we can say that this time will be different - that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way."

In his second address to the UN body, Obama called for nations to promote human rights, halt the spread of dangerous weapons and confront terrorism, tyrannical governments like North Korea and extremists groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The US remains open to diplomatic negotiations with Iran to resolve the dispute over the Islamic republic's nuclear activities, Obama said. He called on Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear work is solely for peaceful purposes and not designed to acquire an atomic weapon.

"The US and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it," he said.

A group of world powers including the United States is expected to meet with Iran this autumn, but no date has been set. US officials say Iran has expressed a willingness to meet but has not responded to efforts by the EU to arrange a date.

On the economy, Obama said his top priority coming into office was to pull the US out of the economic crisis, and he credited international cooperation as key to rescuing the world from the global recession.

"The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of a depression and is growing once more," he said. "But we cannot and will not rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity for all Americans and for people around the globe."

The Obama administration is mediating the beginning of the first direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians for the time in two years, with some US officials saying the effort could be the last chance to secure Middle East peace.

Obama called on the Arab states that support the creation of a Palestinian state to do more to support the West Bank government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and to improve ties with the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians," Obama said. "But these pledges must now be supported by deeds."

Obama said Israel must understand that its security can only be assured with the creation of a Palestinian state, while the Palestinians and Arabs must accept that achieving a state must be reached through peaceful means.

Obama reiterated his call on the Israeli government to extend the moratorium on settlements in the West Bank.

The settlement freeze is set to expire Sunday, and Abbas has threatened to abandon the talks if it is not extended. Obama called the dispute over the settlement moratorium a "fast approaching" test of the peace process.





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