FALLOUT FROM ARAB SPRINGMon Sep 24, 2012 21:3184.108.40.206FALLOUT FROM ARAB SPRING
Obama will take the U.N. podium after a wave of Muslim anger over an anti-Islam movie swept the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, and an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, claimed the lives of the ambassador and three other Americans.
This has confronted Obama with the worst setback yet in his efforts to keep the Arab Spring revolutions from turning sharply against the United States - and has underscored that he has few good options to prevent it.
The unsettled climate surrounding Obama's U.N. visit will be a stark reminder that the heady optimism that greeted him when he took office promising to be a transformational statesman has cooled.
Obama, in his speech, will face the delicate task of articulating U.S. distaste for insults to any religion while at the same time insisting there is no excuse for a violent reaction - a distinction rejected by many devout Muslims.
"It's a real moment for the United States to assert its values and its leadership role," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Obama's U.N. visit also comes at a time of mounting tensions over Iran's nuclear program.
He has refused demands from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to set an explicit "red line" for Tehran. Signaling that a rift remains between the two close allies, Obama said in a interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" program that he would ignore "noise that's out there" and make decisions based on U.S. interests.
Underscoring the depth of the problem, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in New York on Monday that Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be "eliminated," ignoring a U.N. warning to avoid his usual incendiary rhetoric ahead of the annual General Assembly session.
The White House quickly dismissed the comments by Ahmadinejad, who will address the assembly on Wednesday, as "disgusting, offensive and outrageous."
Obama will use his speech to renew a warning that Iran will not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, and his words will be scrutinized to see how far he goes in sharpening his tone.
Netanyahu has shown growing impatience over Obama's entreaties to hold off on attacking Iran's nuclear sites to give sanctions and diplomacy more time to work. Iran denies seeking a nuclear bomb.
At the same time, Obama has come under pressure over his cautious approach to the bloody crisis in Syria, where Assad has defied calls to step aside. Obama could use his address to again denounce China and Russia for blocking further U.N. measures.
Campaigning in Colorado, Romney argued that the United States should not be "at the mercy" of events in the Muslim world. "We want a president who will shape events in the Middle East," he said.
Aides insist foreign policy is still a bright spot for Obama. The White House never tires of touting the killing of Osama bin Laden and the ending of the Iraq war. But his record appears to have dimmed a bit with a recent run of bad news.
Still, Romney may have a hard time reaping dividends.
A Pew poll found that while 45 percent of Americans approved of Obama's handling of the attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in the Muslim world, only 26 percent backed Romney's criticism of his response. Romney was widely accused of opportunism in a national tragedy.
(Editing by Eric Beech)
Obama warns Iran on nuclear bid, containment 'no option' 6:21am EDT
NEW YORK - President Barack Obama will warn Iran on Tuesday that the United States will "do what we must" to prevent it acquiring a nuclear weapon, and appeal to world leaders for a united front against further attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Muslim countries.
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