In his address before the UN General Assembly, President Barack Obama said Iran could play a significant role in shaping the future of the world and its security, should it abandon "the pursuit of nuclear weapons."
Obama told world leaders on Wednesday that his administration was committed to a new era of engagement to tackle global problems, ranging from climate change to peacemaking in the Middle East.
He warned the leaders of Iran and North Korea that their nuclear programs would take the world down a "dangerous slope" with the prospects of arms race rising in East Asia and the Middle East. During his address, President Obama said he supported diplomacy with North Korea and Iran to open "a path to greater prosperity and a more secure peace for both nations if they live up to their obligations."
President Obama then asked the world leaders to demonstrate to Iran and North Korea that international law is not an "empty promise." "We must insist that the future not belong to fear," he said.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stayed for all of Obama's speech.
Regarding the Palestinian issue, Obama said America rejects the legitimacy of Israel's settlement enterprise. After urging Palestinians to end "incitement" against Israel, Obama reiterated that "America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."
He also acknowledged that his country too often fails to criticize Israel's policies toward Palestine. "The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians."
"I am not naive," he told the General Assembly. "I know this will be difficult. But all of us must decide whether we are serious about peace, or whether we only lend it lip-service."
Obama also called on UN member states to tone down criticism of Israel. "Nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks over a constructive willingness to recognize Israel's legitimacy."
"The time has come to re-launch negotiations without preconditions that address the permanent-status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians; borders, refugees and Jerusalem," he said.
"The goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security," Obama said, reiterating his support for "a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people."