U.N. General Assembly 2012: Speeches, Meetings and More

Welcome to the NewsHour’s live-blog of the U.N. General Assembly, where more than 120 world leaders and envoys met in New York City. View highlights below from three days of the 67th session.

Thursday, Sept. 27

Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Updated 6:20 p.m. ET | South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon said when his country became independent from Sudan on July 9, 2011, some major differences still exited between the two neighbors. They reached resolution this week on some crucial issues, including use of Sudan’s oil infrastructure and border placement, but were unable to agree on which side can claim the oil-rich village of Abyei.

“It is now incumbent upon the [African Union] Peace and Security Council together with the U.N. Security Council to take necessary action for the way forward,” he said.

Related Resource: View voices from Abyei.

Within South Sudan, Teny-Dhurgon said his country is hoping to address food security by diversify its economy from oil (oil revenues make up 98 percent of South Sudan’s budget) and bolstering agriculture. “A hungry man is an angry man,” he said. The new country also is working to improve education and other services, he noted, but “still has a long way to go.”

(Read his full prepared remarks.)

Updated 5:03 p.m. ET | “Libya shall never be home to extremist groups,” but a peaceful place of moderation, said el-Megarif.

He condemned campaigns intended to defame the Prophet Muhammad, saying they increase hatred and go beyond the freedom of expression.

El-Megarif also said he condemned Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and called for the return of Palestinian refugees and the establishment of an independent state of Palestine.

“The suffering of the Syrian people is unimaginable,” he continued. “The regime in power is repressing its citizens violently, shedding their blood. This has caused the regime to lose its legitimacy.”

Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Updated 4:41 p.m. ET | Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif (pictured at left) took the podium and said he would like to apologize for the crimes committed by “the lunatic despot” former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was killed by rebels on Oct. 20, 2011. “The Libyan people are determined to build a state … that respects its international commitments and human rights.”

One of those trying to help Libya was U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, el-Megarif said, calling him “a voice of reason and conscience.” Stevens died along with three aides in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

“It was a loss for Libya as it was a loss for the United States. … This catastrophe will only increase our solidarity to entrench the hopes and objectives in which Ambassador Stevens believed that we will defeat the terrorists who do not represent Islam.”

Updated 3:30 p.m. ET | At one of Wednesday’s U.N. special meetings — on security threats in the portion of North Africa known as the Sahel, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton inferred a connection between the al-Qaida affiliate in the region and the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya. According to a transcript from the State Department, she said:

“For some time, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other groups have launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries. Now, with a larger safe haven and increased freedom to maneuver, terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions. And they are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.”

Militia leaders in Benghazi have denied that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb had a hand in the attacks, reports the New York Times.

We’ll explore the question on Thursday’s NewsHour.

Updated 2:15 p.m. ET | Iran must be kept from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb, said Netanyahu. He held up a diagram of a bomb to explain the amount needed.

By next spring or summer, Iran will have finished the medium enrichment stage and entered the final stage of uranium enrichment, and at that point “it could be a few months or weeks to get enough enrichment for a nuclear bomb.”

He drew on the diagram where the red line should be: before Iran enters the final stage, where it would have only a few weeks to complete its bomb.

“It’s not only my right to speak, it’s my duty to speak,” Netanyahu said to applause. “It’s the duty of every responsible leader who wants world peace.”

On Thursday’s NewsHour, we’ll have more on Netanyahu’s call for a “red line” on Iran.

Photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Updated 2:03 p.m. ET | Netanyahu asked the international body to “imagine an Iranian state with nuclear weapons — their terror networks armed with atomic bombs. Who among you would feel safe in the Middle East, in Europe, America and anywhere?”

He said some believe a nuclear-armed Iran can be deterred like the Soviet Union. “That’s a very dangerous assumption.” It’s like saying a nuclear-armed al-Qaida would usher in an era of peace, he added.

Iran has been using negotiations as a stalling technique to advance its nuclear program, the prime minister said. He said sanctions have helped curb oil exports and had other economic impacts, but “sanctions have not stopped Iran’s nuclear program either.”

There’s only one way to stop Iran, Netanyahu said, “and that’s placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Red lines don’t lead to war; red lines prevent war.”

Updated 1:52 p.m. ET | Of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ earlier speech, Netanyahu said, “I say to him as I say to all of you, we won’t solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the U.N. That’s not the way to solve it. We won’t solve our conflict with unilateral statements of statehood.”

He said, “We have to sit together” and have militant elements of the Palestinian state recognizes “the one Jewish state.”

“Radical Islam opposes us,” he continued, and is seeking supremacy over all Muslims and other nations, but “ultimately, they will fail. Ultimately, light will penetrate the darkness.”

Updated 1:43 p.m. ET | “The Jewish people have come home. We will never be uprooted again,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, refuting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments to reporters on Monday that Israel has “no roots” in the Middle East.

Updated 1:29 p.m. ET | Since efforts to gain full U.N. membership failed last year, Abbas announced that the Palestinians have entered intense consultations to get non-member observer status, which would be an upgrade from their permanent observer status.

“There is no homeland for us except Palestine, and there is no land for us but Palestine,” he said to applause. (Read his full statement.)

Updated 1:23 p.m. ET | Abbas: “Israel is promising the Palestinian people a new catastrophe, a new Nakba (day of catastrophe).”

Despite the Palestinians’ feelings of anger, the “Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” remains committed to peace and international legitimacy, he said.

“We realize that ultimately the two peoples must live and coexist, each in their respective state, in the Holy Land,” said Abbas. But the approach of negotiating with the Israeli government without clear terms isn’t working, he said. Instead, the approach must include condemnation and punishment of settlements on Palestinian land, and recognition of an independent state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and with 1967 borders.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Updated 1:07 p.m. ET | “Israel’s overall policy is ultimately leading to the weakening of the Palestinian National Authority, undermining its ability to carry out its functions and to implement its obligations, which threatens to undermine its very existence and threatens its collapse,” said Abbas (pictured at left).

He said exploratory talks with the Israeli government to come to an agreement have failed.

“There can only be one understanding of the Israeli government’s actions in our homeland and of the positions it has presented to us regarding the substance of a permanent status agreement to end the conflict and achieve peace. That one understanding leads to one conclusion: that the Israeli government rejects the two-state solution,” he said.

Updated 12:59 p.m. ET | Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinians are the targets of daily attacks by “terrorist militias of Israeli settlers.” He said: “The escalation of settler attacks should not surprise anyone, for it is the inherent byproduct of the continuation of occupation and a government policy that deliberately fosters the settlements and settlers and deems their satisfaction to be an absolute priority.”

Updated 12:25 p.m. ET | Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller quotes singer Bob Marley: “one love, one heart.” She adds, “I hope that the peoples of the world will one day live together in peace, love, security and prosperity.” (Here are her full prepared remarks.)

Thein Sein, president of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Updated 10:46 a.m. ET | Myanmar’s President Thein Sein described efforts to disarm ethnic factions fighting in his country and to make democratic reforms. “I am well aware of the fact that Myanmar’s democratic transformation process would be a complex and delicate one that requires patience,” he said, asking for support from the United Nations. (Read the rest of his speech.)

Myanmar opposition party leader and legislator as of April, Aung San Suu Kyi, also is visiting the United States. She spoke last week in Washington, D.C., about the democratic advancements and lingering challenges in her country.

Updated 10:25 a.m. ET | The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is key to a lasting peace in the Middle East,” said Guyana’s President Donald Rabindranauth Ramotar. He said Guyana recognizes the state of Palestine based on its 1967 borders and backs its full membership in the United Nations. (Read his entire speech.)

Updated 10:02 a.m. ET | Israel’s Netanyahu is expected to address the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran in his speech this afternoon, reports Reuters. The premier is seeking a deadline for Iran to stop its nuclear program or else face military action. President Obama, in his speech (below), said there is still time for negotiations, but time is “not unlimited.”

Despite the rhetoric surrounding Israel and Iran over its nuclear development, the Christian Science Monitor reports on Israelis who “don’t seem to be expecting a war with Iran anytime soon — and are not frantically preparing for one.”

Noga Tarnopolsky of GlobalPost writes about how some Palestinians’ anger toward Israel has turned into frustration with their own leaders and economic hardships.

Updated 9 a.m. ET Thursday | Today, eyes will be on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when they address the assembly this afternoon.

Last year, Abbas sought U.N. membership in order to have the world body recognize Palestine as an independent state. (Watch Abbas’ and Netanyahu’s speeches at last year’s U.N. General Assembly.) The application stalled in the U.N. Security Council last fall. Numerous leaders at this year’s U.N. General Assembly have raised the issue, calling for a two state solution: a sovereign Palestine and a secure Israel.


Wednesday, Sept. 26

Updated 6 p.m. ET | You can continue to watch the evening’s speeches in the above U.N. livestream, and return here at 9 a.m. ET Thursday for more highlights of the U.N. General Assembly.

Updated 4:03 p.m. ET | Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti called the financial problems in Europe “the worst crisis in the history of the European Union.” He said it’s “essential that European governments deliver at the national level,” and Italy will do its part. (See his entire speech.)

On Wednesday’s NewsHour, Gwen Ifill talks to Jacob Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute of International Economics about the latest riots over austerity measures in Greece and Spain.

Updated 3:18 p.m. ET | In case you missed it, in his speech Tuesday evening Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said his country has gone “above and beyond the call of duty in fulfilling our international responsibilities.” He cited the 10,000 Pakistani troops serving on U.N. peacekeeping missions. (View his full statement.)

Also Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke of the “depravity of fanatics who have committed acts of insult against the faith of over 1.5 billion Muslims.” He said he strongly condemned these acts, such as the making of a film or publication of cartoons. They can never be justified as freedom of speech or expression, nor can they be used to incite violence and loss of innocent lives, he said. (Read his full statement.)

Updated 2:20 p.m. ET | With the Arab Spring still surging, British Prime Minister David Cameron said nations must “redouble our support for open societies, and for people’s demands for a job and a voice.”

Mexican President Felipe Calderon addresses the assembly. Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images.

Updated 1:44 p.m. ET | Illegal consumption of drugs is killing thousands of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean, and countries have not been making progress in reducing the demand, said Calderon. “Illegal drug consumption is the new slavery of the 21st century.”

Consumers of illegal drugs are funding and providing incentive to criminal organizations, which then pay off police forces and judiciaries, he said. “In this lofty assembly, I would like to say clearly that the time has come for consuming countries to honestly and sincerely assess if they have the will and ability to do so, they must try to significantly reduce drug consumption.”

Updated 1:30 p.m. ET | Mexican President Felipe Calderon spent much of his speech talking about climate change, saying Mexico is doing its part by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and planting thousands of trees. “We’re all responsible for the planet that we share, and we all have to have the solution,” he said.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Updated 1:02 p.m. ET | On nuclear proliferation, Morsi (pictured at right) said “the only solution is to get rid of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction,” though he recognized the right of countries to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

He also asked that other nations respect Egypt’s cultural and religious points of view, and join it in confronting discriminatory practices that have become pervasive enough that they now carry a name: “Islamophobia.” (Read his entire speech.)

Updated 12:42 p.m. ET | “Long decades” have passed since the Palestinians have requested full rights and an independent state, but they’ve been unable to achieve legitimacy, said Morsi. “The fruits of dignity and freedom must not remain far from the Palestinian people.” He said “it is shameful” that the free world would allow a party to continue to deny their rights and allow settlements on their territory. He called upon the U.N. member states to support a sovereign Palestinian state just as it did the revolutions in the Arab world.

Morsi said about Syria: “The bloodshed must be stopped immediately.” After the regime “that kills its people” comes to an end, he said, the Syrian people will choose a regime that represents it and puts it among other democratic countries. “Egypt is committed to pursuing this effort.”

Updated 12:31 p.m. ET | “I am the first Egyptian civilian president elected democratically,” said President Mohammed Morsi. He said Egypt has taken steps to create a modern state, seeking “justice, truth, freedom, dignity and social justice.”

Updated 11:40 a.m. ET | “The arrival of the Ultimate Savior, Jesus Christ and the Righteous will bring about an eternally bright future for mankind, not by force or waging wars but through thought awakening and developing kindness in everyone,” Ahmadinejad said. “Long live this spring, long live this spring and long live this spring,” he concluded to scattered applause. (Read his full remarks.)

Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Updated 11:33 a.m. ET | “I do not believe Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others have any problems among themselves,” said Ahmadinejad (pictured at right).

Citing the widening gap between the rich and poor, he said, “the world is in need of a new order” of trustworthy leaders offering peace and lasting security. The existence of discrimination among U.N. members is unacceptable and the world body should be restructured, he continued.

Updated 11:12 a.m. ET | Ahmadinejad goes through a list of “what ifs,” including if Sept. 11 hadn’t happened, terrorism was not used to achieve political goals, the U.N. Security Council not under the domination of limited governments, and the world’s capitalists had not weakened other countries to make up for their own mistakes, “imagine how beautiful and pleasant our lives and how lovely the history of mankind would have been.”

Updated 11:06 a.m. ET | Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the assembly, “I am here for the eighth time” and to voice the “divine and humanitarian message” of his country.

Updated 10:21 a.m. ET | View a schedule of today’s speakers on the United Nations’ website.

Updated 9:46 a.m. ET | Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said her country is seeing economic progress, but some problems remain. Displaced citizens and returning refugees are contributing to unemployment, and civil servants who have been underpaid for years are rightly seeking more, she said, but undermining the budgetary process.

Nonetheless, in its 10th year of sustained peace, “our country has turned a corner,” she said.

Updated 9:15 a.m. ET | Yemen’s President Mansour reaffirmed his country’s commitment to fighting terrorism and said the only solution to Syria is for the parties to agree to a transfer of power “through the ballot boxes.”

Updated Wednesday 9 a.m. ET | With a gavel bang, the second day of the U.N. General Assembly opened, and the president of Yemen, Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi Mansour, took the podium.


Tuesday, Sept. 25

Updated 6 p.m. ET | We’re closing the live-blog for now and turning over coverage to the NewsHour broadcast. You can continue to watch the evening’s speeches in the above U.N. livestream, and return here at 9 a.m. ET Wednesday for more highlights of the U.N. General Assembly.

Updated 5:48 p.m. ET | King Abdullah II of Jordan condemned all acts that vilify the Prophet Muhammad and those that justify violence in the name of Islam or any other religion. “Islam teaches us to honor all human beings, promote tolerance and show mercy.” He said all leaders must be proactive and promote understanding.

Abdullah said in his region of the Middle East, new opportunities are needed, especially for youth, to “fill the universal desire and basic human right to live in freedom, dignity and peace.”

The United Nations has an important role in helping the people of Syria commit to a political solution, he said. “The people of Jordan and Syria have long and deep ties,” he continued, so Jordan has accepted many Syrian refugees. He urged the international community to help as camps are filling up and winter approaches.

Abdullah also spoke of the Palestinians’ need for dignity and safety. “The Arab summer cannot bear its full fruit until the Arab-Israeli conflict comes to an end.”

Photo of South African President Jacob Zuma by Michael Nagle/Getty Images.

Updated 4:45 p.m. ET | Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, said the United Nations’ inability to act on the fighting in Syria shows that changes in the world body’s makeup are needed.

“It is of concern when it appears the United Nations is unable to act and assist, and when it comes across as paralyzed in certain instances due to the actions of some member states,” he said.

“We’ve seen a divided Security Council unable to muster the collective courage to say ‘no more’ to the warring parties (in Syria) in the interest of peace,” said Zuma.

The U.N. Security Council should be more transparent and democratic in its decision-making and should include representatives from Africa, he said.

Updated 4:09 p.m. ET | While some newly elected leaders such as Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi (speaking Wednesday) will be getting much of the attention, Foreign Policy reminds readers of other first-time speakers at the U.N. General Assembly.

Updated 3:15 p.m. ET | Rwandan President Paul Kagame said supporting development is key for resolving conflict, because people feel invested in the troubled area. “Our country was destroyed by political exclusion and subsequent genocide” but since has been able to rebuild, include all citizens and develop conflict-resolution mechanisms, he said.

Updated 2:25 p.m. ET | French President Francois Hollande (pictured at right) spoke about three threats: fanaticism fueling violence, the global economic crisis and climate change. “The mission of the United Nations is to tackle these problems and find strong and just responses to them.”

To help do that, the U.N. Security Council “must reflect the reality of the world today,” he said to applause. France supports enlarging the council to include Africa among the permanent seats.

Hollande also spoke about Syria, saying he has taken the step of having France recognize Syria’s provisional government as soon as it is formed.

As for combating the threat of nuclear proliferation, Hollande said Iran has “escaped” the monitoring of the International Atomic Energy Agency and therefore France is ready to issue more sanctions to tell Iran’s leaders “enough is enough.”

In the Middle East, France will do “everything it can” to re-establish negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to establish two states, he continued. “Everyone knows this is the only solution that could lead to justice and peace in the region.”

In Sahel, “the occupation in the north of Mali by terrorist groups is intolerable,” said Hollande. “It doesn’t just affect Mali but all countries in the region and those that might be affected by terrorism someday.”

On the Aug. 23 NewsHour, Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reported on how Islamic militants destroyed traditional Malian shrines:

Updated 1:34 p.m. ET | U.N. Dispatch has a schedule of who’s speaking today.

Updated 12:37 p.m. ET | Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was one of several leaders to speak about Syria. “Hundreds of innocent civilians are killed everyday” by a regime that does not care for its people, he said. “It is better for the Arab countries to intercede … and do what is necessary to stop the destruction in Syria.” (Read his full statement.)

Updated 12:18 p.m. ET | While President Obama’s schedule at the United Nations was dearth of bilateral meetings, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the presidents of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday to urge them to resolve a conflict over rebels in eastern Congo, which is destabilizing the region, reports Reuters.

Updated 11 a.m. ET | “It is because of the progress I’ve witnessed that after nearly four years as president, I am hopeful about the world we live in,” President Obama said, referencing the end of the war in Iraq, troops departing Afghanistan and a weakened al-Qaida.

Read the president’s full remarks as published by the White House.

Updated 10:55 a.m. ET | “We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” President Obama said.

Updated 10:48 a.m. ET | The president’s remarks about resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were met with applause: “Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on the prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, and those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard but the destination is clear – a secure, Jewish state of Israel; and an independent, prosperous Palestine.”

Updated 10:40 a.m. ET | “There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan,” said President Obama.

Updated 10:33 a.m. ET | “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,” President Obama said.

Updated 10:25 a.m. ET | President Obama began his speech by describing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died Sept. 11 at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

He “embodied the best of America,” the president said. “He acted with humility but he also stood up for a set of principles.”

The attacks are not just on America but on the ideals upon which the United Nations was founded, said President Obama. If we are serious about these ideals we must speak honestly about what’s behind the crisis, he said. “We must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our united nations.”

Updated 10:20 a.m. ET | Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff spoke up for Cuba’s economic efforts, saying they require support from other countries. The time has come to end sanctions there, she said. She also invited leaders to be inspired by the Olympic flame (Brazil hosts the 2016 Summer Games).

Updated 9:25 a.m. ET | U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (pictured at right) said the situation in Syria is getting worse and worse. The international community should support efforts to stop the violence and help a Syria-led transition as soon as possible, he said.

Palestinians must be able to “realize their right to a viable state of their own,” Ban also said, while Israel and Palestine should live free from the threat of rockets and without Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

In addition, Ban brought up Iran’s nuclear program, saying Tehran must prove its program has a solely peaceful intent.

Updated 9:10 a.m. ET | U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly by sounding “an alarm” that in this time of turmoil, transition and transformation, too many countries are becoming weaponized and divided.

But he also said he is heartened that democratic transitions are underway in Myanmar and elsewhere, Africa’s growth has become the fastest in the world, and countries in Asia are making strides.

Sustainable development is the key to advancement, he said, because the current use of resources is threatening the planet’s limits.

Posted 9 a.m. ET | President Obama is one of the first leaders to speak at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, and he is expected to denounce the anti-Islam video that sparked deadly protests in the Muslim world.

He also is expected to say containment is not an option for a nuclear-armed Iran, and that there is still time for diplomacy but time is “not unlimited,” according to advance copies of his speech.

Related Resource: 5 Things to Watch for at the 2012 U.N. General Assembly

New York police officers stand near United Nations headquarters on Monday before more than 120 heads of state meet for the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Photo of French President Francois Hollande by John Moore/Getty Images, of President Obama by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images, and of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images.

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