U.S. President Barack Obama exhorted world leaders on Wednesday to step up and do their part in tackling global challenges in promoting security and prosperity rather than waiting for America to do it alone.
“The people of the world want change,” said Mr. Obama in his first address to the U.N. General Assembly. “They will not long tolerate those who are on the wrong side of history.”
While Mr. Obama continues to be popular around the world, he has struggled with many international issues, including the war in Afghanistan, negotiating peace between Israelis and Palestinians and winning passage of climate change legislation ahead of a global conference in December.
The U.N. speech comes one day before Mr. Obama hosts a two-day meeting of the world’s major economies in Pittsburgh, where he is likely to encounter resistance to his proposals aimed at correcting global imbalances that many believe contributed to the worldwide recession.
In an era where fast-moving technology binds people across borders and old divides, Mr. Obama called for “a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”
Mr. Obama said he would never apologize for defending U.S. interests. But he sought to dispel what he said has become “an almost reflexive anti-Americanism” that has swept the globe.
To do so, Mr. Obama offered a litany of policy changes and actions his administration had undertaken during his first nine months in office, with the overarching message that the U.S. has no interest in a go-it-alone stance and instead wants to act as an equal partner with others on the world stage.
“Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone,” said Mr. Obama in an address that carried a remarkably blunt tone.
Mr. Obama called on fellow leaders to help bring about a nuclear weapons-free world, to increase security from terrorists and promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to tackle climate change and to create more economic opportunity.
He said that Iran and North Korea “must be held accountable” if they continue to put their pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of international security.
“The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise and that treaties will be enforced.”
Obama has said the door is open to Iran to discuss the issue, but that U.S. patience is not limitless. He has taken the same position with respect to the reclusive communist regime in North Korea.
On the warming planet, he said “the danger posed by climate change cannot be denied — and our responsibility to meet it must not be deferred.”
The president said “this is why the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over.” He said he understood the temptation of nations to put economic recovery from recession ahead of work to address climate change, but said that must not be allowed to happen.