Obama calls for end to intolerance

Obama called for an end to intolerance and violence while warning Iran against nuclear arms.

United States President Barack Obama. Picture: AFP

UNITED NATIONS - President Barack Obama urged world leaders on Tuesday to put an end to the intolerance and violence that led to the recent killing of the US ambassador in Libya and warned Iran he would do what it takes to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear arms.

In a 30-minute address to the 193-nation UN General Assembly, Obama called anew for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following an 18-month civil war without saying how to make it happen.

He also offered no fresh ideas on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Beginning and ending his remarks by evoking Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya who died with three other Americans in a September 11 assault on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Obama called on nations to fight such violence.

"Today, we must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers," said Obama, who seeks re-election on 6 November.

"Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations."

While condemning the violence sparked by a video made in California that depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a womaniser, fool and child abuser, several Muslim leaders called for international action to outlaw acts of blasphemy.

US missions also came under attack in Egypt, Tunisia, Indonesia and other Muslim nations.

Obama - while repeating his condemnations of the video as "crude and disgusting" and stressing that the US government had nothing to do with its production - staunchly defended free speech.

"The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech - the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy," Obama said.

Saying it is necessary to "honestly address the tensions between the West and the Arab world" moving toward democracy, Obama said he did not expect everyone to agree with him.

"However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders in all countries to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism," he said. "There is no speech that justifies mindless violence."