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Obama to UN: People Are Free to 'Call Me Awful Things'

President condemns Libya attack as assault on UN ideals
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2012 7:49 AM CDT
Updated Sep 25, 2012 9:59 AM CDT
Obama to UN: US Will Block a Nuclear Iran
President Barack Obama speaks during the 67th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(Newser) – President Obama addressed the UN in New York this morning, condemning the attack on the US consulate in Libya, defending free speech, and vowing to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Here's what he said.

  • Obama opened with a glowing tribute to the late Ambassador Chris Stevens, saying he "represented the best of America."
  • Clashes following The Innocence of Muslims aren't just attacks on Americans; they amount to "an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded," the president said.

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  • While Obama condemned the video as "crude and disgusting," he vigorously defended free speech. "As president of our country … I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day. And I will always defend their right to do so."
  • Even countries that don't believe in free speech, he said, must agree that "there is no speech that justifies mindless violence. ... There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy."
  • On Iran, Obama asserted that "there is still time and space" for diplomacy. "But that time is not unlimited." A nuclear Iran, he said, "would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy." That, he added, was why "the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
Obama's trip to the UN will look very different from last year's, USA Today notes: Instead of 13 bilateral meetings with world leaders, he'll have exactly none this year, putting Republicans on the offensive. "One would think bilateral meetings with world leaders might be more important than a social hour and an interview on The View," a party spokeswoman said. Obama and Mitt Romney are set to address the Clinton Global Initiative today as well, in near back-to-back speeches. You can read about that here. (Read more President Obama stories.)

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