Updates from the U.N. General Assembly
The world's leaders are in New York for the 68th annual U.N. General Assembly. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon kicked off the assembly, saying that this generation has the power to "wipe poverty from the face of the Earth."
Among the leaders speaking Tuesday: U.S. President Barack Obama, who began just after 10 a.m. ET. He called for a U.N. resolution to back an agreement for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons stockpile.
The key question at Tuesday's opening of the General Assembly was whether Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would change years of diplomatic animosity by meeting in person, even if just for a handshake. Rouhani is due to speak in the afternoon.
Here are the latest updates:
1:22 p.m. -- Abdullah has finished. Seven speakers are left in what was supposed to be the "morning session." Once again, here is the full list of today's 34 speakers: http://gadebate.un.org/. We're on speaker No. 13. New Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, scheduled for the afternoon session, is speaker No. 24.
1:18 p.m. -- Abdullah commended Israel's prime minister and the Palestinian president for pursuing peace talks and urged that there "be no actions to derail" the negotiations. He cited settlement construction and "unilateral actions that threaten the status quo" as obstacles that would scuttle peace talks.
1:17 p.m. -- As part of an argument that the world needs to work for an end to violence in Syria, Jordan's King Abdullah II warns that the number of Syrian refugees coming into neighboring Jordan is becoming too much for his nation to sustain. He said the number already represents 10% of Jordan's population -- and it could be 20% by next year. "These are not just numbers -- they are people" who need food, health care and more, Abdullah said. "Not even the strongest economies can absorb this demand on infrastructure and resources, let alone (a small country) and the fourth water-poorest country" in the world.
1:11 p.m. -- Christians in Middle Eastern and Muslim nations have endured their share of persecution. Abdullah said his country has been a "historic model" for Muslim-Christian relations. He said Jordan will continue to do its "utmost to protect" Arab Christian communities and people.
1:08 p.m. -- Abdullah started his speech on the subject of neighboring Syria: "The Syrian crisis is a global, humanitarian and security disaster." Syrians have fled to Jordan for safety during the civil war.
1:02 p.m. -- Hollande finished his speech. Next up is Jordan's King Abdullah II.
12:57 p.m. -- Backing up a little bit: While Hollande was talking about Syria minutes ago, he called on the U.N. Security Council to take up a resolution that would hold accountable those who carried out a chemical weapons attack on August 21 on the outskirts of Damascus. A resolution backing up a Russia-U.S. agreement on getting rid of chemical weapons in Syria has been in the works, but it's been unclear whether the resolution would call for perpetrators to be held accountable.
12:56 p.m. -- The "international community," Hollande said, "must assist African states to protect themselves."
12:54 p.m. -- Hollande made reference to Africa and noted the "barbaric attack" in Nairobi as an example of terrorism. He said victories are indeed possible against terrorism, citing the French intervention in Mali.
12:54 p.m. -- One of the glimmers of hope in the Middle East, Hollande says, is found "in the statements of the new Iranian president, because this shows there has been development." He is referring to Hassan Rouhani's calls for greater international cooperation on tough issues, including Iran's nuclear program. The question to pose now, Hollande says, is whether words will be put into action, specifically on the nuclear issue.
12:51 p.m. -- Hollande said a Geneva peace conference on Syria must be devoted to establishing peace and a political transition with elections. All countries that accept this goal, he said, would be welcome at the negotiating table.
12:47 p.m. -- Hollande credits pressure from France and other nations, including the United States, for leading to the current negotiations "under way to ensure the verification and destruction of chemical weapons" in Syria.
12:45 p.m. -- French President Francois Hollande is now at the podium, and he's starting with Syria. "The honor of the United Nations is to act for peace, and in Syria, it is urgent," he said.
12:43 p.m. -- The family of former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati has a message for Iran's new president: Their American son is not a spy, has never been one, and he should be released immediately from prison in Iran.
12:36 p.m. -- Francois Hollande, France's president, is next up at the U.N. General Assembly speaker's podium. He follows the leaders of Chile, Bulgaria and Mozambique.
12:34 p.m. -- After he spoke at the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama declined to answer questions on whether he had asked the Iranian president for a meeting or whether they would meet and shake hands. "Thanks" was all he said.
12:30 p.m. -- Some people have called on the U.N. to ensure that perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria are held accountable at the International Criminal Court -- and that could be a sticking point in forming any U.N. Security Council resolution backing an agreement for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons. Outside the United Nations, CNN's Isha Sesay asked NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday whether diplomats should abandon that point to ensure a resolution. Rasmussen, though he said perpetrators should be held responsible, declined to answer directly. "I think it's important to get a binding, strong, firm legal framework through (a) United Nations Security Council resolution, and of course we cannot negotiate details here."
12:27 p.m. -- CNN's Reza Sayah, on CNN TV from Tehran, said people in Iran are optimistic after President Obama's speech to the U.N. General Assembly. Citizens, he said, are "hopeful" that U.S.-Iran relations can improve. Obama said in his speech: "We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course."
12:10 p.m. -- Tweet from the United Nations, @UN: "What's one of the tougher #UNGA tasks this week? Seating assignments for world leaders at lunch. @Tumblr photo: j.mp/18nduZ6."
12:05 p.m. -- Tweet from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, @HassanRouhani: "President Rouhani is in a meeting with International Monetary Fund (#IMF ) Chief, Christine Lagarde #UNGA."
11:34 a.m. ET -- Nigeria has been a victim of terror by groups such as Boko Haram, and the nation's president, Goodluck Jonathan, warned the U.N. General Assembly about the "threat of terrorism" and the need to fight terror. He also referred to the attack by al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab at a Kenyan mall as an example of such activity.
11:25 a.m. ET -- For the curious, the full list of today's 34 speakers can be found at http://gadebate.un.org/. New Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is among the speakers in the afternoon session.
11:19 a.m. ET -- Abdullah Gul has finished his address. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is next up.
11:12 a.m. ET -- Tweet from Ivan Watson, @IvanCNN: "Turkish President Abdullah Gul calls for "a political strategy led by P5 and the neighboring countries" to bring an end to Syrian civil war."
11:12 a.m. ET -- Speaking about the Palestinian issue, Gul said "the denial of the right of the Palestinians to have a state of their own has no justification on any moral, political, or legal grounds." "We therefore welcome and strongly support the talks initiated between the parties under the auspices of the United States. The success of future efforts mainly depends on the Israeli government's acceptance of the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state."
11:08 a.m. ET -- Tweets from Ivan Watson, @IvanCNN: "Turkish President Gul at UNGA: 'we must realize that inaction by the security council only emboldens aggressive regimes.' " ... "Turkish President Gul at UNGA: this conflict neither began with the use of chemical weapons, nor will it end w/an agreement to eliminate them."
Turkish President Gul at UNGA:"we must realize that inaction by the security council only emboldens aggressive regimes."
11:07 a.m. ET -- "I cannot emphasize this enough," Gul said: "Agreement on chemical weapons must not be allowed to substitute for a comprehensive political strategy to address the situation in Syria."
11:05 a.m. ET -- Gul addressed Syria's chemical weapons. "Turkey welcomes and firmly supports the U.S.-Russian agreement to eliminate Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons," but he stressed that the "agreement has to be translated into a tangible U.N. Security Council resolution." "Once Syria comes clean about this arsenal, once and for all, it will be a relief for the Syrian people and the region."
10:59 a.m. ET -- The issue of Syria is all-important to Turkey, and Turkish President Abdullah Gul is expected to address the Syrian civil war.
10:59 a.m. ET -- Next up: Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
10:58 a.m. ET -- And that's it from Obama. Just a few highlights here: He said he was ready to use "all elements of U.S. power," including military force, to protect U.S. interests in the Middle East. He's encouraged that Iranian "President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course," and he's directing his secretary of state to pursue a nuclear agreement with Iran. And he said that U.S. disengagement from the Middle East would create a vacuum of leadership.
10:49-10:51 a.m. ET -- Tweets from @jimsciuttoCNN: "Biggest news of Obama #UNGA speech: his directing @JohnKerry to pursue nuclear deal with #iran . Huge investment of capital" ... "Obama on #Iran : 'conciliatory words must be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable' " ... "President Obama: US-Iranian "mistrust has deep roots" #UNGA" ... "@MeetIran @HassanRouhani @JZarif when is last time so many Iranian officials stayed for US president speech?"
10:48 a.m. ET -- Obama supported the action in Libya, where the U.N. Security Council "provided a mandate to protect civilians" and "America joined a coalition that took action." "Does anyone truly believe that the situation in Libya would be better if (former Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi had been allowed to kill, imprison or brutalize his people into submission? It is far more likely that without international action, Libya would now be engulfed in civil war and bloodshed."
10:48 a.m. ET -- Tweet from @eliselabottcnn: "Obama: US may have limited influence, be accused of hypocracy (ie #bahrain , #syria ), but US will be engaged in #mideast for long haul #unga."
10:48 a.m. ET -- Tweet from @eliselabottcnn: "Obama: on #egypt ; shows US will work with govt it doesn't agree with if it helps US security interests but won't give up principles. #unga."
10:45 a.m. ET -- Obama said it is important for the United States to remain engaged in North Africa and the Middle East. "I believe that such disengagement would be a mistake. I believe America must remain engaged for our own security," but also because "I believe the world is better for it," he said.
10:42 a.m. ET -- Obama is now talking about Egypt, where longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 and President Mohamed Morsy was ousted this summer. The United States' overriding interest regarding Egypt these past few years has been to encourage the existence an Egyptian government that legitimately reflects the will of the people, but respects minority rights and freedom of assembly, Obama said.
10:41 a.m. ET -- Obama addressed Egypt, saying U.S. support for that country will depend upon that nation's "progress in pursuing a democratic path." "Our approach to Egypt reflects a larger point: The United States will at times work with governments that do not meet the highest international expectations, but who work with us on our core interests. But we will not stop asserting principles that are consistent with our ideals, whether that means opposing the use of violence as a means of suppressing dissent, or supporting the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
10:39 a.m. ET -- A quick look back at what he said about Iran: "We are encouraged," Obama said, "that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course. Given President Rouhani's stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government, in close coordination with the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China." "The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested."
10:38 a.m. ET -- President Obama says the United States is "determined to prevent" Iran "from developing a nuclear weapon" but said diplomacy "must be tested." "We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people, while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful. To succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable," he said.
10:37 a.m. ET -- Obama said "real breakthroughs" on Iran's nuclear program and Israeli-Palestinian peace "would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa."
10:36 a.m. ET -- Adding to what he said about the Israeli-Palestinian issue: "The occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state." But Israelis have the right to live in a world that recognizes their right to live in security, he said: "The state of Israel is here to stay."
10:36 a.m. ET -- The United States, he said, "remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state."
10:33 a.m. ET -- Talking about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Obama underscored his support for Israel. "I have made clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel's security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state."
10:31 a.m. ET -- Tweet from @RafaelRomoCNN: #Obama : "The US is chastised for [both] meddling in the [Middle East] region... and failing to do enough." #UNGA @CNNLive
10:31 a.m. ET -- Tweet from @RafaelRomoCNN: "#Obama : #Iran dispute "has deep roots... it can't be overcome overnight." @CNNLive #UNGA
10:30 a.m. ET -- "I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship -- one based on mutual interests and mutual respect," Obama said.
10:30 a.m. ET -- Obama outlines the U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa: The United States is prepared to use "all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region" and confront threats to allies and partners. That includes taking action when it's necessary to defend America against terrorist attacks. Also, he said, the United States will ensure the free flow of energy to the world and confront threats to allies and partners. And the country will not tolerate the use and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
10:28 a.m. ET -- "In the near term," Obama said, "America's diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Arab-Israeli conflict. While these issues are not the cause of all the region's problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace."
10:25 a.m. ET -- "The notion that Syria can somehow return to a prewar status quo is a fantasy," Obama said. "It's time for Russia and Iran" to realize that insisting that Bashar al-Assad remains as Syria's president will actually ensure their greatest fears: It would increase the amount of space where violent extremists can operate, he said.
10:24 a.m. ET -- "I welcome the influence of all nations that can bring about a peaceful resolution of the Syrian civil war," Obama said.
10:23 a.m. ET -- The evidence is "overwhelming" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians, Obama said.
10:22 a.m. ET -- "An agreement on chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic" initiative, Obama said. He doesn't believe military action can achieve a lasting peace and said that Syrians themselves should decide who runs Syria.
10:20 a.m. ET -- Obama talked about the crisis in Syria and the "stillborn" peace process. The conflict "goes to the heart " of a bigger issue: "How should we respond to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa?" That includes "conflicts between countries and conflicts within them."
10:19 a.m. ET -- Expanding on the theme of moving from a perpetual war footing, Obama says that "the world is more stable (than it was) five years ago." He became president nealy five years ago, you'll note. But dangers remain, he acknowledges, citing the current hostage crisis at a Kenya mall, a recent suicide bombing in Pakistan, and strife in the Middle East and North Africa.
10:15 a.m. ET -- Obama said that work has been done to end a decade of war, and he talked about "shifting away from a perpetual war footing."
10:12 a.m. ET -- President Obama underscored the importance of an institution like the United Nations. Once, he said, "the idea that nations and peoples could come together in peace to solve their disputes" seemed "unimaginable." But, he said, it took the "awful carnage" of two world wars to change thinking about that.
10:10 a.m. ET -- Obama has stepped up to the podium.
10:08 a.m. ET -- Rousseff has wrapped up her speech. U.S. President Barack Obama will be next.
10:06 a.m. ET -- Rousseff is calling for an expansion of the number of permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, no doubt with a view that Brazil should be among them. Criticizing the current setup -- what she called the "limited representation" on the council -- she said it has been unacceptably paralyzed in addressing such important issues as the Syrian conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian question.
10:02 a.m. ET -- Rousseff is hitting home the importance of the economy and mentions the need for reforms. "The world's economic situation remains fragile," she said. "We are all in the same boat."
10 a.m. ET -- Brazil will put forward proposals at the United Nations aimed at preventing the manipulation of cyberspace "as a weapon of war," and regulating states' behavior online, Rousseff said.
9:58 a.m. ET -- Rousseff talked about the issue of poverty -- a major concern of the world's nations. "Poverty is not a problem that is peculiar only to developing countries," she said.
9:54 a.m. ET -- Rousseff said Brazil would continue demanding explanations from the United States regarding its electronic surveillance programs exposed recently by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and it will seek guarantees that such acts will not continue. "Friendly governments that want strategic partnerships cannot possibly allow recurring and illegal actions to go on," she said.
9:53 a.m. ET -- The issue of privacy is not just relegated to a bilateral relationship, Rousseff said, referring to the United States and Brazil. The issue "affects" the entire world.
9:50 a.m. ET -- "Without a right to privacy," Rousseff said, "there is no real freedom of speech or freedom of opinion."
9:48 a.m. ET -- It didn't take long for Brazil's Rousseff to broach the subject of electronic spying. "Recently disclosed information on the activities carried out by a global network of electronic spying" has angered the world, she said.
9:48 a.m. ET -- Dilma Rousseff has started. She sent along her condolences to the families of victims in Nairobi, Kenya, where the terror group Al-Shabaab attacked a mall. She said "terrorism" should be condemned and there should be determination to tackle the problem.
9:45 a.m. ET -- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is moments away, it seems. Delegates are being reminded to speak at a calm pace so that translators can do their work easily.
9:33 a.m. ET -- Rousseff's state visit to Washington had been intended to bring the two biggest economies in the Americas closer together -- and the United States is Brazil's second-biggest trading partner after China. But reports alleging that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on Rousseff's mobile phone and e-mail communications embarrassed her, as CNN's Shasta Darlington reported last week.
9:28 a.m. ET -- Rousseff should be interesting from the U.S. government's point of view. Earlier this month, the U.S. and Brazil jointly agreed to postpone her planned October visit to Washington because of a controversy over reports that the U.S. government was spying on her communications.
9:27 a.m. ET -- A tweet from the United Nations: Ban Ki-moon to #UNGA : "Let us empower the United Nations to be more than a first responder or a last resort."
9:25 a.m. ET -- Ban has finished speaking. Soon will come Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
9:20 a.m. ET -- Ban has turned to Israel and the Palestinians. "If we are serious about achieving a two-state solution, then we must recognize that the window ... is closing fast."
9:19 a.m. ET -- In a related Syria item: We just learned, from Ban's associate spokesman Farhan Haq, that U.N. weapons inspectors will be back in Syria on Wednesday to assess at least a half a dozen claims of chemical weapons use in Syria -- some alleged to be regime use, others alleged to be rebel use. That note comes to us from CNN's Nick Thompson in London.
9:18 a.m. ET -- Ban said that the civil war in Syria has left the economy "in ruins" and communities "torn apart." "We face a moment of reckoning." He said Syria's government must obey international obligations regarding its chemical weapons stockpile but also stressed that the vast majority of the killing and atrocities have been carried out with "conventional weapons." He appealed to all states to end the arms flow into Syria.
9:15 a.m. ET -- Speaking about Syria, Ban said the international response to the chemical weapons problem in the devastated county has created "diplomatic momentum" for peace. "We must build on it to get the parties to the negotiating table," he said. "The only answer is a political settlement."
9:12 a.m. ET -- Ban has just called for a climate summit, to convene at the United Nations next September. He wants the summit to put nations on a path to a legal agreement on issues such as emissions, and to deliver an "inspiring new development framework."
9:10 a.m. ET -- Ban stressed the importance of the fostering the rights of women, who face abuse in many countries across the world. When girls are healthy and in school and "when women's lives are free of violence and discrimination, nations thrive." "Let the 21st century be the century of women."
9:04 a.m. ET -- Ban has kicked things off: "We come together not to preserve the status quo, but to drive our world forward." He's simultaneously giving a message of optimism and prodding -- he says our generation has the ability to "wipe poverty from the face of the Earth," but we're hindered by a number of problems, such as unresolved conflicts and youths without jobs.
8:59 a.m. ET -- We're just moments away from Ban's opening speech. After Ban will be Brazil's Rousseff, and then Obama.
8:56 a.m. ET -- Regarding Obama's speech this morning, scheduled for around 10:10 a.m.: He will focus on U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa, a White House official said, according to CNN's Jim Acosta.
8:52 a.m. ET -- A tweet earlier this morning from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif: we have a historic opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue. 5+1 needs to adjust its posture commensurate with the new Iranian approach.
8:52 a.m. ET -- Secretary of State John Kerry, however, will be meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif, at a Thursday meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany. Discussions will surround restarting talks on Iran's nuclear program.
8:51 a.m. ET -- Could be a handshake. Could be more. Could be nothing. We'll see.
8:48 a.m. ET -- So how will Obama respond to Rouhani's overtures this week? No meeting between the two presidents has been scheduled, as far as we know. But a senior U.S. administration official said Tuesday that the White House has "left the door open" to some kind of face-to-face interaction between the two, CNN's Jim Acosta reported.
8:38 a.m. ET -- But Rouhani, a moderate politician elected in June, has called for better engagement with the West, including in a Washington Post op-ed last week, in which he called for nations to work together on contentious issues such as Iran's nuclear program. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes; the United States and other Western nations accuse Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapons program.
8:35 a.m. ET -- Another thing to look for today: What will Iranian President Hassan Rouhani say when he speaks this afternoon -- and will he interact with Obama? For the past several years, the General Assembly was then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's chance to needle the United States and the West, with many Western diplomats often walking out on his speeches.
8:25 a.m. ET -- The United States is pushing for a U.N. Security Council resolution this week to enforce a deal, brokered by Russia and the United States, in which Syria would give up its chemical weapons -- a deal that came after a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21.
8:19 a.m. ET -- The General Assembly is a chance for about 200 countries to -- as our colleague Holly Yan puts it -- step up to the global stage and tell the world what they want. Among the hot topics you'll expect to be addressed: Syria, where more than 100,000 people have died since an uprising began there two years ago.
8:10 a.m. ET -- Tuesday's speeches will kick off around 9 a.m. with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will follow, with Obama scheduled to come right after her -- somewhere around 10:10 a.m.
7:56 a.m. ET -- It's a big day at the United Nations. Many world leaders are expected to speak at the General Assembly in New York over the next few days, with 34 -- including U.S. President Barack Obama -- speaking Tuesday.