Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Julie Pace / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
The president praised Israeli and Palestinian leaders for their willingness to take "significant political risks" in order to get back to the negotiating table.
"Now the rest of us must also be willing to take risks," he said, adding that the United States must recognize that Israel's security depends on the formation of a Palestinian state.
Obama will meet later Tuesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He'll also hold talks at the White House next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel is watching closely as the U.S. and Iran edge close to direct negotiations. The previous Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeatedly threatened the destruction of Israel, and Israeli leaders have pushed Obama to be more forceful with the threat of military action in response to Tehran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
While Obama has said all options are on the table when it comes to dealing with Iran, he has preferred to use economic sanctions as a prod. The sanctions have had a substantial effect on Iran, leading to a spike in inflation and unemployment.
American officials say the Iranian public's frustration with a deteriorating economy led to Rouhani's election and is driving his change in tone. But it is still unclear whether Iran is willing to take the steps the U.S. is seeking in order to ease the sanctions, including curbing uranium enrichment and shutting down the Fordo underground nuclear facility.
Congressional officials from both parties have urged Obama to maintain tough sanctions until Iran makes significant nuclear concessions. Top Democratic and Republican senators sent Obama separate letters this week that also urged him to make clear to Tehran's new leadership that the U.S. will not accept a nuclear-capable Iran.
Obama also addressed the continued turmoil in the Arab world, where pro-democracy movements have had mixed results over the past two years. He defended the White House's decision to maintain ties with the interim government in Egypt, which took over after the military ousted the country's first democratically elected leader.
However, he said future American support "will depend on Egypt's progress in pursuing a democratic path."
The U.S. provides Egypt with about $1.5 billion a year, mostly military aid. The president's top national security aides have recommended suspending much of the money.