Obama Presses For Mideast Peace In UN Address

Exhorting world leaders to push past years of cynicism and pessimism, President Barack Obama challenged the countries of the United Nations on Thursday to unite around peace efforts that he said could achieve agreement within a year to create an independent Palestine and a secure Israel. Obama, in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, urged fellow world leaders to press forward with renewed determination in the quest for Mideast peace, an effort that he acknowledged has encountered "few peaks and many valleys." Without an agreement, he said, "more blood will be shed" and "this Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity."As Obama spoke, Israel's seat in the hall sat empty because it was a Jewish holiday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was present, listening to the president through a translator's earphone. Obama's call for a Palestinian state drew a burst of applause from throughout the hall. Obama's one-year timeline is ambitious even if the Mideast peace process faced the best of circumstances, which it does not. He made no mention of the militant Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip and refuses to accept Israel's right to exist. The failure of past peace efforts has left both sides with rigid demands and public ambivalence about the value of a negotiated settlement. Obama spoke with resolve of the need to address trouble spots around the world, but he tended first to the economic concerns that abound both at home and abroad. "There is much to show for our efforts," he said, recalling the economic turmoil of years past. "We cannot — and will not — rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity for all Americans and for people around the globe." On a pressing security issue, Obama defended his administration's approach to engaging Iran in negotiations over its nuclear program — an effort that has failed thus far. In July the administration imposed a new set of sanctions on Iran. "The door rema