Obama to address nuclear non-proliferation at U.N.
NEW YORK — President Obama will speak Wednesday at the U.N. General Assembly, part of a fast and furious few days of diplomacy -- and potential controversy -- as he tackles a range of thorny international issues with his counterparts.
The leaders of China, Iran, Libya and Russia also are scheduled to address the world body after Obama delivers his remarks.
In the opening speech of the body's annual debate, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged global leaders to unite and work together to face many of the world's challenges.
Ban focused on the importance of tackling climate change, nuclear disarmament, and poverty. He also touched on conflicts and problems in hotspots across the world, such as Somalia, Myanmar, Gaza, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
"Amid many crises ... food, energy, recession and pandemic flu, hitting all at once ... the world looks to us for answers. If ever there were a time to act in a spirit of renewed multilateralism ... a moment to create a United Nations of genuine collective action ... it is now," he said.
Obama is expected to seek global support for a "new era of engagement" and raise a similar list of difficult problems -- terrorism, protracted conflict in the Middle East, poverty, pandemic disease, climate change, and nuclear non-proliferation. Obama will lead a special session of the U.N. Security Council dealing with nuclear issues on Thursday.
Iran recently reiterated its unwillingness to give up its nuclear program, which the United States and other Western nations fear is being used to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is strictly for civilian power.
Fresh off the plane in New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the nuclear issue was not on his agenda, though he would not avoid or prevent a discussion on the topic.
"We will pursue the nuclear issue only through the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], because that provides the legal framework and it's the law," Ahmadinejad said in an Associated Press television interview Tuesday night.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that Iran's failure to prove that its nuclear program will not be used for military purposes remains a source of "deep concern" to the international community. She promised continuing "costs" for Iran in the form of diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions if Tehran does not allow greater international oversight of the program.
At the same time, Clinton defended the U.S. administration's decision to open the door to talks with the Iranian government, which has been criticized for cracking down on domestic political opponents in the wake of its disputed June presidential election.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said she didn't expect a direct meeting between Obama and Ahmadinejad at the U.N. session.
The U.N. gathering marks Obama's first presidential appearance before the world body. On Thursday, he'll travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the Group of 20 summit, where he will host a two-day meeting of representatives of the world's largest economies.