Syrian crisis, Iran cloud UN General Assembly
Ahmadinejad (L) shakes hand with Ban. EPA photoWar in Syria, mounting tensions over Iran’s nuclear drive and anti-Western protests across the Muslim world will cast a shadow over the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders starting today.
Words of warning and defiance are expected when U.S. President Barack Obama, Iran’s leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu join more than 120 heads of state and government at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will represent Turkey in place of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Obama and Western leaders are expected to call for action for the Syrian crisis in their speeches. The U.S. president is one of the first speakers today morning after the event is opened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will also chair a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the Arab Spring, at which Syria is expected to be a major theme. Ahmadinejad is expected to speak to the assembly tomorrow, when a new walkout is predicted if the Iranian leader repeats one of his toxic remarks about Israel. The United States and its allies have stepped up warnings to Iran over its nuclear program, but time is running out for a negotiated solution to the showdown.
Top officials from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.S. are due to meet on Sept. 27 just after Israel’s prime minister addresses the assembly. Netanyahu will take the U.N. stage two slots after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. With peace talks deadlocked, Abbas is this time expected to announce that the Palestinians will seek an elevated observer status, a move that neither the U.S. nor Israel can block. The deadly protests in Muslim nations against an Internet video made in the United States that mocks Islam is also due to receive much attention at the assembly. Muslim leaders will reaffirm their anger in their speeches and the film will top the agenda at a meeting of foreign ministers from the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Sept. 28.