(Newsroom America) -- President Barack Obama has told the UN General Assembly that the deadly violence sparked by an anti-Islam video is an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded.
And he warned that the world faces "a choice between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes we hold in common."
President Obama called on world leaders to espouse the peaceful settlement of disputes and "the events of the last two weeks speak to the need for all of us to address honestly the tensions between the West and an Arab World moving to democracy."
Cities in North Africa and the Middle East recently experienced violent protests in response to an anti-Islamic video produced in the state of California by a US citizen. In the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, the US ambassador to the country, Christopher Stevens, and three other diplomats were killed, and others injured or killed, when suspected Libyan religious extremists stormed the US Consulate there.
The film has drawn widespread condemnation around the world, including from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“On this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence,” President Obama said, calling the video “crude and disgusting,” but he said such hateful comment is allowed by the freedom of speech clause in the US constitution.
“There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan," he said.
“Burning an American flag will do nothing to educate a child. Smashing apart a restaurant will not fill an empty stomach. Attacking an Embassy won’t create a single job."
President Obama said the US has supported the forces of change that have toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and he called for an end to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, where more than 18,000 people have been killed in an uprising against his rule over the past 18 months.
“However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders, in all countries, to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism.
“It is time to marginalize those who, even when not resorting to violence, use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel as a central principle of politics,” he said. "For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes excuses, for those who resort to violence."
President Obama pledged that the US will never retreat from the world and will bring to justice those who harm its citizens and friends.
Many of the world’s heads of State and government and other high-level officials are expected to present their views and comment on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s 67th General Debate, which ends on 1 October.