By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 23, 2009 - President Barack Obama today asked for global cooperation to solve pressing world problems like nuclear proliferation, terrorism and extremism, climate change and poverty during his speech before the U.N. General Assembly in New York City. "Like all of you, my responsibility is to act in the interests of my nation and my people, and I will never apologize for defending those interests," Obama said in his first address of the international assembly. "But, it is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 -- more than at any point in human history -- the interests of nations and peoples are shared."
The world's nations share the planet as well as a common future, and "must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interests and mutual respect, and our work must begin now," the president said.
Obama cited four pillars as the basis of his world vision: nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and promoting disarmament; promoting world peace and security; preserving the planet; and growing an environmentally friendly global economy that advances opportunities for all people.
America has contributed to efforts to promote global peace and justice, Obama said, noting his administration has prohibited torture by agents of the United States and has ordered the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The United States also "is doing the hard work of forging a framework to combat extremism within the rule of law," Obama said. America, he added, will "live its values" and lead by example.
To combat global extremism, Obama said, the United States wants to work more with the U.N.'s 192-nation membership "to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and its extremists allies -- a network that has killed thousands of people of many faiths and nations, and that plotted to blow up this very building."
The United States and other U.N. members are helping the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan "develop the capacity to take the lead" against terrorists operating on their territory, he said.
The United States also is responsibly winding down its mission in Iraq, Obama said, as the Iraqi government and its soldiers and police assume more of the country's security duties.
"We have removed American combat brigades from Iraqi cities, and set a deadline of next August to remove all our combat brigades from Iraqi territory," he said. "And, I have made it clear that we will help Iraqis transition to full responsibility for their future."
All U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of 2011, he said.
The United States also wants to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and, with Russia, will "pursue substantial reductions in our strategic warheads and launchers," the president said.
To that end, Obama said, "We will call upon countries to begin negotiations in January on a treaty to end the production of fissile material for weapons," which he said is of "vital importance" to prevent nuclear devices from falling into the hands of terrorists and extremists.
Obama also called the governments of North Korea and Iran to account for their alleged work to produce nuclear arms despite repeated U.N. treaties and resolutions against it.
If North Korea and Iran continue their efforts to produce nuclear armaments, then "they must be held accountable" by the international community, he said.
"The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise and that treaties will be enforced," the president said.
The pursuit of world peace "must begin with an unshakeable determination that the murder of innocent men, women and children will never be tolerated," Obama said. Violent extremists like al-Qaida and other terrorists, he said, "offer nothing but hatred and destruction."
The United States and its allies will "permit no safe haven for al-Qaida to launch attacks from Afghanistan or any other nation," Obama said, while also pledging to assist Pakistan in its fight against extremism.
Other important U.S.-U.N. peace initiatives, he said, involve pursuit of lasting peace in Sudan, Haiti, the Congo, East Timor -- as well as finding a peaceful accommodation between Israel, Palestine and the Arab world, he said.
Real world peace also is dependent upon the world's nations to meet the challenges posed by climate change, including air pollution and global warming that may "devastate" the environment, Obama said. The United States will move forward to invest in clean energy, cut emissions and promote renewable energy sources, he said.
On the global economy, Obama said it is paramount to provide economic opportunities that advance "all people." In the midst of the worst global recession since the Great Depression, he said, too many people across the world experience empty stomachs, unclean water, rampant disease and high infant death rates.
America continues its efforts to assist the world in battling polio, influenza and boosting global trade, the president said. As part of efforts to reduce or eliminate poverty, he said, wealthy nations must open their markets to less well-off countries.
Rooting out corrupt officials, ending oppression and installing honest police and independent judges in developing nations also helps build a vibrant private sector, he said.
The world has reached "a pivotal moment," Obama said, whereby "the United States stands ready to begin a new chapter of international cooperation – one that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of all nations."
Obama called upon the world's nations "to join us in building the future that our people deserve."