Syria's al-Assad 'must face consequences' for chemical weapons use, Obama says in UN speech

Syria's al-Assad 'must face consequences' for chemical weapons use, Obama says in UN speech

UNITED NATIONS - Agence France-Presse / Reuters
Syrias al-Assad must face consequences for chemical weapons use, Obama says in UN speech

United States President Barack Obama addresses the audience during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 24. AFP photo

U.S. President Barack Obama on Sept. 24 demanded that the world take action on Syria, saying that the regime must face consequences after the use of chemical weapons.

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, Obama defended his threat of force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and denounced critics who accuse the United States of inconsistency.

"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 told world leaders.

Obama lashed out at doubters who questioned whether al-Assad carried out the August 21 chemical attack near Damascus, which U.S. intelligence says killed some 1,400 people.

"These rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood, and landed in opposition neighborhoods," Obama said.

"It is an insult to human reason - and to the legitimacy of this institution - to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack," he said.

"I do not believe that military action - by those within Syria, or by external powers - can achieve a lasting peace. Nor do I believe that America or any nation should determine who will lead Syria," Obama said.

"Nevertheless, a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country," he said of al-Assad.

US 'prepared to use military power'

He also emphasized that the United States was ready to use military force to protect U.S. and global interests in the Middle East and Africa.

"The United States is chastised for meddling in the region, and accused of having a hand in all manner of conspiracy," Obama said. 

But he warned there was no change in U.S. policy in the Middle East and Africa and that Washington "is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure these core interests in the region." 

Obama's remarks come as the U.S. and Russia wrangle over a U.N. Security Council resolution that would accompany an agreement by Syria to give up chemical weapons.

The U.S.-Russia deal at least temporarily halted a push by Obama and supported by France for a military strike on Syria.

Diplomatic path toward Iran 'must be tested'

In closely watched remarks on Iran based on a diplomatic opening offered by Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, Obama said the United States wants to resolve the Iran nuclear issue peacefully but is determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

The U.S. president insisted there should be a basis for an agreement on Iran's nuclear ambitions but that the roadblocks will be difficult to overcome.

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