US & World

Obama: UN must enforce ban on Syrian chemical weapons (updated)


President Barack Obama said Tuesday the U.N. Security council must agree to a resolution on Syrian chemical weapons that includes consequences for the regime of President Bashar Assad if he doesn't meet demands to dismantle his chemical stockpile.

The president's remarks came during an address to the U.N. General Assembly in which he pressed for peace in the Middle East and said the United States will pursue a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran.

On Syria, Obama said that the failure to include consequences in a resolution would mean the international body is unable to enforce requirements for that nation to rid itself of chemical weapons.

Obama said it would be, quote, "an insult to human reason and the legitimacy" of the U.N. to suggest that the Assad regime did not carry out a chemical attack on civilians last month.

On Iran, Obama said he has directed Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a nuclear weapons agreement and that he firmly believes "the diplomatic path must be tested."

Obama said he's encouraged that Iranian President Hasan Rouhani is pursuing a more moderate course. But he said Rouhani's "conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable."

The West has long suspected that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. Tehran has consistently denied the charge.

It's still unclear if Obama will meet with Rouhani while at the United Nations. The leaders of the two countries haven't had face-to-face contact in more than 30 years.

U.S. officials say no meeting is planned, although they haven't ruled one out.

On Mideast peace, the president said the time is ripe to press for a resolution of the long conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Obama told his U.N. audience in New York that all sides must be willing to take risks in order to achieve Mideast peace.

The president said Israel and its friends must be willing to accept a Palestinian state. And he said Arab states must recognize that stability can only be achieved through a two-state solution with a secure Israel.

Talks on Mideast peace resumed this summer after months of prodding by Secretary of State John Kerry. But the prospect of a resolution on issues that have long had the Israelis and Palestinians at odds remain slim.

The president also addressed the deadly terrorist attack in Kenya, noting that while the world is more stable than five years ago, the incident at an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi "indicates the dangers that remain."

More than 60 people have been killed by members of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab. The attackers say the strike was retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into neighboring Somalia.

Obama said al-Qaida has splintered into regional networks and militias, and said that poses "serious threats to governments, diplomats, businesses and civilians across the globe."

This story has been updated.