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UN General Assembly: Thein Sein reaffirms Myanmar reforms; Obama condemns violence in Middle East; Syria accuses rebel supporters

Updated On: Oct 02, 2012

The UN General Assembly concluded its week-long annual debate on Monday. Speaking before the body, Myanmar’s President Thein Sein reaffirmed radical democratic changes in his country, US President Barack Obama urged reform in the Middle East, while Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem accused other countries of supporting rebels in Syria.

Myanmar President Thein Sein on reform

Myanmar President Thein Sein’s visit to the United States, which ended Sunday, has been hailed as opening a new chapter in relation between the two countries.

During a speech at the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations on 27 September, Mr Thein Sein paid tribute to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He referred to her for the first time as a Nobel laureate, and congratulated her on the honours she recently received during her own visit to the US.

The same day, in an interview with the BBC, the President said that he would accept Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi as President if the people vote for her in the next election in 2015.

At the UN, the President also stated that his country would be participating more actively in UN activities. "Myanmar is now ushering in a new era," he said.

He added that Myanmar's Parliament, the judicial system, the armed forces, political parties, the civil society, and the people at large have been taking notable steps toward the democratic transition and the reform process.

"We have now been able to put in place a democratic government and a strong, viable parliament”, he said.

Mr. Thein Sein also met with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Mark Hotel in New York. He repeated his dedication to democratic transition, describing the US recognition as an encouragement to the country to continue reforms.

The US took a step to normalize commercial relations between the two countries by easing US restrictions on the import of goods from Myanmar.

Other meetings included private talks with members of the Asia Society, as well as leaders of the European Council, the US-ASEAN Business Council and the US Chamber of Commerce.

In the economic sector, the President stressed the need to pay close attention to investments in sectors, such as energy, to ensure transparency.

Report: Burma’s Thein Sein: “Aung San Suu Kyi could be President” [BBC News, 30 Sep 2012]

Report: Thein Sein’s trip boost ties with the US [China Daily, 2 Oct 2012]

President Obama seeks reform in the Middle East

Addressing the UN General Assembly, President Barack Obama addressed an array of issues. He warned Iran and Syria that the U.S. and its allies are united in their efforts to deny Tehran a nuclear bomb and to deprive Damascus the arms and funding for its military crackdown.

Condemning the recent violent backlash in Libya and other Muslim countries, he said that the U.S. must stand by emerging democracies.

Mr. Obama's approach is to defend the right to free expression as a “universal value.” He repeated that the U.S. government had no role in making the anti- Muslim video and that he personally found it "repugnant."

"As President of our country and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so," Mr. Obama said, drawing laughter from his audience.

The US President also stressed that emerging democracies need to aggressively guard against the use of religion and violence for political purposes.

Report: Obama seeks “Arab Spring Reform” [Wall Street Journal, 25 Sep, 2012]

Syrian Minister accuses rebel supporters

In a speech to the UN General Assembly on Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, Turkey, France and Libya of supporting terrorists "under the pretext of humanitarian intervention."

The Syrian foreign minister told the UN that the United States and France, along with several regional countries, had undermined peace efforts by supplying rebel groups with arms and money.

"Permanent members of the [UN] Security Council who have launched wars under the excuse of combating terrorism [are] now supporting terrorism in my country without any regard to United Nations resolutions."

Mr Moallem added it was no surprise the Security Council had failed to condemn rebel bombings given that some of its members supported such acts.

Mr. Moallem also blasted European and U.S. economic sanctions on Syria. He asked: "How can imposing sanctions on the banking, health and transport sectors be consistent with caring for the best interest of the Syrians?"

Earlier Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syrian authorities to show compassion on its own people.

Although opinions vary, the general feeling at the UN is that the Syrian government bears primary responsibility for the continuing conflict.

Report: Syrian Minister, at UN, blast supports of rebels [Wall Street Journal, 1 Oct 2012].

Report: States backing Syria rebels 'aid terror'-Walid Moallem [BBC News, 1 Oct 2012]