UNITED NATIONS — President Obama offered a blunt message to world leaders assembled here Wednesday: Engagement is a two-way street.
"Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone," Obama said in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
Seeking to contrast himself with his predecessor, who showed little patience for international organizations and global opinion, Obama said he has ushered in "a new era of engagement with the world."
He said that the United States "stands ready to begin a new chapter of international cooperation" that "recognizes the rights and responsibilities of all nations."
Obama cited a litany of his policies that are popular abroad, including prohibiting torture, closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay and withdrawing troops from Iraq and confronting climate change.
"Now is the time for all of us to do our part," Obama said, adding that wealthy nations need to "extend a hand" to advance opportunities for "all people."
Obama praised the U.N. but then scolded the organization saying the "United Nations does extraordinary good around the world in feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and mending places that have been broken — but it also struggles to enforce its will, and to live up to the ideals of its founding."
Obama met with Mideast leaders on Tuesday to try to end a deadlock for peace. In the first three-way meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the president tried to advance talks leading to some kind of peace negotiation.
Although there was no breakthrough, on Wednesday Obama talked about the "four pillars" of new world peace: Eliminating nuclear weapons, curbing global warming, ending regional wars and forging an economy that is fair to all and can resist future crises.
Referring to regional wars the president vowed to stop the war between Israel and the Palestinians.
"I will not waver in my pursuit of peace," Obama said.
Following Obama's speech and in his first appearance at the U.N. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi chastised the group for failing to intervene or prevent some 65 wars around the world since the world body was founded in 1945.
Gadhafi called for a change in the Security Council— abolishing the veto power of the five permanent members — or expanding the body with additional member states to make it more representative.
"It should not be called the Security Council; it should be called the terror council," he said.
Gadhafi railed against the "inequality" of U.N. member states, quoting from a copy of the U.N. Charter that calls for equality of nations, and then noting that five nations hold veto power on the Security Council and can block actions contrary to their interests: the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.
Meanwhile, Obama and new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said that the traditional alliance between their nations will continue despite the Japanese leader's campaign rhetoric signaling a shift away from Washington.
The two met for the first time on Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N. gathering. Hatoyama's sometimes anti-Washington remarks weren't mentioned directly, and Obama thanked Hatoyama for his "extraordinary campaign."
After their talks, Obama described the U.S.-Japan relationship as "a cornerstone" of the economic prosperity and security of both countries. Hatoyama called it "a key pillar" and said Japan would work with the United States.
He praised Obama's goal of a nuclear-free world.
Contributing: David Jackson in Washington; Carolyn Pesce in McLean, Va.; Associated Press