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Can the United Nations do anything about Syria?

Spekaing at the annual United Nations General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged world leaders to take action on the crisis in Syria.

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"The moderate majority should not be a silent majority," Ban said. "It must empower itself, and say to bigots and extremists alike: 'you do not speak for us.'"

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Obama urged all leaders "to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism" and join the U.S. in confronting the root causes of the rage across the Muslim world.

He condemned the anti-Muslim video that helped spark the recent attacks, calling it "cruel and disgusting." But he strongly defended the U.S. Constitution's protection of the freedom of expression, "even views that we profoundly disagree with."

Obama was not expected to cross paths with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who addresses the assembly on Wednesday morning, but he did have a message about the country's nuclear program: There is still "time and space" to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions "but that time is not unlimited."

Ahmadinejad insists his country's nuclear program is only for electricity generation and medical research, but the U.S. and Western allies are demanding that Iran open all its facilities to inspectors from the U.N. nuclear agency to prove the intent of its enrichment of uranium.

Obama said a nuclear-armed Iran "would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy" and would also risk triggering a nuclear arms race in the region.

"And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he said.

Hollande said France is ready to discuss new sanctions against Iran, "not to punish the great Iranian people, but to say to its leaders that enough is enough now, and that it must restart negotiations before it's too late."

The secretary-general hosted a lunch for the more than 120 world leaders — but Obama skipped it, leaving Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to offer the traditional toast from the host country. She sat at the head table, beside Ban, with the emir of Qatar, the king of Jordan, the grand duke of Luxembourg, and the presidents of Egypt, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, Liberia, Serbia and Malawi.

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