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He also had harsh words for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying his regime “must come to an end,” a reminder of Assad’s defiance of international calls for him to end a bloody 18-month crackdown and step aside.
And Obama renewed his call for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks - something he promised to make a priority when he took office but which he has failed to advance.
ELECTION THE PRIORITY
With campaign pressures building in a close race, Obama’s final turn on the world stage before facing voters on Nov. 6 left little doubt about his immediate priorities.
He skipped the customary one-on-one meetings with foreign counterparts but went ahead with the taping of a campaign-style appearance on the popular television talk-show “The View” - a trade-off that drew Republican criticism.
Obama planned to be in and out of New York in 24 hours and off to the election battleground state of Ohio on Wednesday.
Despite Obama’s international woes, administration officials are heartened by Romney’s own recent foreign policy stumbles and doubt that the president’s critics will gain traction in a campaign that remains focused mainly on the U.S. economy.
In addition, the White House never tires of touting the killing of Osama bin Laden and the ending of the Iraq war as Obama’s foreign policy accomplishments - points that the president made his speech.
Nevertheless, the unsettled climate surrounding Obama’s U.N. visit was a stark reminder that the heady optimism that greeted him when he took office, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize within months, has now cooled.
Obama’s early overtures to Iran were rejected, and the expansion of its nuclear program, which it says is purely peaceful, has created tension between Washington and Israel. Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence.
Netanyahu has indicated impatience over Obama’s entreaties to hold off on attacking Iran’s nuclear sites to give sanctions and diplomacy more time to work.
The unusually public dispute between the United States and Israel has been exacerbated by Obama’s decision not to meet with Netanyahu on his U.S. visit later this week, a move that risks alienating some pro-Israel voters.
Signaling resentment at Netanyahu’s tactics, Obama told CBS’s “60 Minutes” he would ignore “noise that’s out there.”