Obama Challenges UN to Confront Chemical, Nuclear Weapons

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"The time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace. Already, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks," Obama said, alluding to newly restarted direct talks. "Now the rest of us must also be willing to take risks" to help them.

The president closed his address with a spirited defense of "American exceptionalism," a quality that critics, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have openly questioned in recent weeks.

"Some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional," Obama said, "in part because we have shown a willingness, through the sacrifice of blood and treasure, to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interests of all."

Obama argued that a world without U.S. leadership would be more dangerous than one in which the United States remains closely involved in upholding international norms.

"I believe America must remain engaged for our own security," he said, "but I also believe the world is better for it."

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