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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon greets people during the U.N. General Assembly's annual meeting. During his opening speech, he put the spotlight on Syria.
Seth Wenig/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 9/26/2012
UNITED NATIONS--Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded international action to stop the war in Syria, telling a somber gathering of world leaders Tuesday that the 18-month conflict had become "a regional calamity with global ramifications."
In sharp contrast to the U.N. chief, President Barack Obama pledged U.S. support for Syrians trying to oust President Bashar Assad--"a dictator who massacres his own people."
Opening the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting, Ban said in his state of the world speech that he was sounding the alarm about widespread insecurity, inequality and intolerance in many countries.
Putting the spotlight on Syria, the U.N. chief said "the international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control."
"We must stop the violence and flows of arms to both sides, and set in motion a Syrian-led transition as soon as possible," he said.
While Obama didn't call for an end to the violence, he made no mention of arming the opposition and stressed the importance of ensuring "that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence."
"Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision--a Syria that is united and inclusive, where children don't need to fear their own government, and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed, Sunnis and Alawites, Kurds and Christians," said Obama, who arrived at the U.N. after Ban spoke.
"That is what America stands for; that is the outcome that we will work for--with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute; and assistance and support for those who work for this common good," the U.S. president said.
Ban, declaring that the situation in Syria is getting worse every day, called the conflict a serious and growing threat to international peace and security that requires attention from the deeply divided U.N. Security Council.
That appears highly unlikely, however, at least in the near future.
Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Syrian President Bashar Assad to end the violence and enter negotiations on a political transition, leaving the U.N.'s most powerful body paralyzed in what some diplomats say is the worst crisis since the U.S.-Soviet standoff during the Cold War.