No meeting with Iranian President: "Too complicated," says White House...
New York, New York - President Barack Obama toasted to global peace on Tuesday as he attended the luncheon hosted annually by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It came on the heels of the President delivering his fifth speech since taking office to the 68th General Assembly. Thus his toast would be brief, he said. (Above, raising a glass with the Secretary-General)
Standing in a huge hall of the Second Floor of the UN called the Delegates
Lounge, the President was clad in a dark suit as he raised his glass. He saluted the Secretary-General, saying he provides "the moral vision that we seek from the United Nations as well as a practical sense of how we can achieve that vision."
He also praised "all who help sustain our United Nations, often unseen and unheralded," making special note of UN inspectors in Syria, sent to prove the Assad regime had launched a chemical attack on its own citizens.
"This includes the dedicated U.N. inspectors in Damascus who set out into battlefield conditions," President Obama said.
"They braved sniper fire. They worked diligently with great professionalism. They uncovered the truth, and they have the thanks of the world."
The most anticipated moment of the day did not happen: There was no meeting between President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, which various news outlets on Monday had reported would happen at the lunch. But the Iranian delegation did not show up for lunch, or for anything else with President Obama. The leaders of the US and Iran have not met since before the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
A Senior Administration told reporters that "We did not have any plan for a formal bilateral meeting here. We indicated that the two leaders could have had a discussion on the margins if the opportunity presented itself. The Iranians got back to us; it was clear that it was too complicated for them to do that at this time given their own dynamic back home."
President Obama made news during his address to the General Assembly when he announced that he had instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a deal with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
Pool was ushered out after the President's toast, and the luncheon, for which no menu as released, continued. The President will return to Washington, DC, late on Tuesday evening after attending a DNC fundraiser.
The transcript of the President's toast:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
September 24, 2013
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AT A LUNCHEON HOSTED BY U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
New York, New York
1:37 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Ladies and gentlemen, as is always the case with these lunches, I exceeded my time this morning, and so you've heard enough from me. (Laughter.) But as President of the host country, I do simply want to say thank you to all of you and express my appreciation for Secretary Ban for his principled leadership as well as the extraordinary hard work of his team.
Mr. Secretary-General, you continue to provide the moral vision that we seek from the United Nations as well as a practical sense of how we can achieve that vision. And so on behalf of all of us, we want to say thank you very much.
I also want to salute all who help sustain our United Nations, often unseen and unheralded. This includes the dedicated U.N. inspectors in Damascus who set out into battlefield conditions. They braved sniper fire. They worked diligently with great professionalism. They uncovered the truth, and they have the thanks of the world. Meanwhile, we see thousands of peacekeepers in blue helmets standing watch around the world from Haiti to the DRC to Cyprus, so that people in countries recovering from conflict and strife can have the chance to build a more hopeful life.
After the Yalta Conference, shortly before the United Nations was founded, President Roosevelt spoke of what it would take to achieve a lasting and durable peace. "The structure of world peace," he said, "cannot be the work of one man or one party or one nation. It cannot be an American peace or a British, a Russian, a French, or a Chinese peace. It cannot be a peace of large nations or of small nations. It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world." These words are more true today than ever, whether it's preventing the spread of deadly weapons, promoting democratic governance, or fighting daily battles against poverty and hunger and deprivation. International peace, development, and security will not be achieved by one nation or one group of nations. It must be the work of all of us.
So I want to propose a toast to our host and great friend, Secretary-General Ban, to all those here in New York and around the world who help sustain the United Nations, and to the spirit that we need the cooperative effort of the whole world. Cheers. Salud.
END 1:40 P.M. EDT
*Photo by AP/pool