West turns up heat on Iran and Syria at UN

September 26, 2012 7:16 am


Qatar Emir Shek Hamad bin Kalifa Al-Thani addresses the UN General Assembly in New York/AFP
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 – Western and Arab leaders ramped up the pressure on Syria and Iran at the United Nations, as US President Barack Obama vowed to keep Tehran from getting its hands on nuclear weapons.

The United States, France and Qatar led the charge on Tuesday as the West and its allies attempted to use the UN General Assembly to win support for tougher international action against the Middle East’s twin pariah regimes.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon set the tone, condemning the bloodshed in Syria, where the beleaguered regime is battling an armed revolt and subjecting its citizens to what the UN peace envoy dubbed “medieval forms of torture.”

Under pressure from his domestic rivals to take a tough stance, Obama said President Bashar al-Assad’s regime “must come to an end so the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.”

The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, a key supporter of the Syrian opposition, called for Arab military intervention.

“It is better for Arab countries themselves to intervene out of their humanitarian, political and military duties and do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed,” he told the General Assembly.

A US State Department official told AFP that the United States will soon announce an increase in its aid to the Syrian rebels, but would still stop short of sending weapons and ammunition.

And French President Francois Hollande urged the United Nations to declare protected areas in “liberated zones” under opposition control in Syria so that humanitarian aid could reach refugees.

Obama was also unequivocal on Iran, which is locked in a standoff with the West over a nuclear program that Washington alleges is designed to produce a weapon that could tip the balance of power in an already volatile region.

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