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Iran and Middle East share center-stage at the UN General Assembly

European and US delegations have walked out of the UN General Assembly in protest during a speech by the Iranian president. Meanwhile US President Obama called for work on a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressing UN

Ahmadinejad addressed an assembly barely half full

Representatives from all 27 EU countries, together with the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Costa Rica, have walked out in protest during a speech by Iran’s president at the UN.

Addressing the 65th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that the US government could have orchestrated the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington in order to firm up its grip on the Middle East and stimulate the American economy.

US President Barack Obama described Ahmadinejad's remarks as "outrageous and offensive."

Nuclear standoff

In his address to the assembly, Obama renewed his call for a peaceful solution to the nuclear standoff with Iran. The Tehran leadership must first show a credible commitment to dialog and "confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program," he said.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets with UN chief Ban Ki moon

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets with UN chief Ban Ki-moon

On the sidelines, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with her counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia and called for an "early negotiated settlement" to the Iranian nuclear issue. The six powers said they looked forward to a speedy meeting with Iran.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle welcomed the opportunity for dialog with Iran, saying he hoped it would spark new momentum.

"The situation is extraordinarily difficult but it's the only chance also for Iran to not suffer the sanctions," he said.

Looking for peace in the Middle East

The Israel-Palestine conflict was another topic broached by President Obama in his address.

Obama said that it was urgent for all sides to work together to create an independent Palestine and a secure Israel – hopefully within a year.

Obama addressing UN

Obama urged leaders to work on a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict

"Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that the true security of the Jewish State requires an independent Palestine. And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will only be won by peaceful means," said Obama.

Obama warned that if the US-backed initiative that was launched three weeks ago failed, Palestinians would never get a state and Israel would never know true security.

"The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity," Obama said.

German ambitions

UN Security Council meeting

Berlin is seeking a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council

German Foreign Minister Westerwelle is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on Saturday, where he will outline Germany's application for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The UN General Assembly will be voting new members to the Security Council when it convenes on October 12. There are three candidates for two seats reserved for Western nations - Germany, Canada and Portugal.

At the beginning of the General Assembly UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon outlined the major threats to the international community: poverty, climate change and nuclear weapons. He urged the 192 members of the United Nations to jointly face up to the challenges.

The aim must be "a richer world, a greener world and a safer world," said Ban.

Author: Nigel Tandy, Catherine Bolsover (Reuters/dpa/AFP)

Editor: Tony Dunham

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