President Obama, at UN, warns Iran over nuclear program

President Obama warned Iran on Tuesday that “time is not unlimited’’ and pledged to world leaders that the United States would prevent the country from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

In an address to the United Nations General Assembly, Obama said patience with Iran is wearing thin after months of negotiations and an extensive regime of economic sanctions. The United States, Israel, and Western leaders contend Iran is using its emerging nuclear energy program to develop a bomb.

A nuclear weapon in Iran “would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy,’’ the president said.

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“Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,’’ Obama told world leaders. “That’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.’’

Iran has said that its nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes, such as medical and energy needs. However, UN inspectors repeatedly have been frustrated by a denial of access to Iranian nuclear facilities, some of which are buried deep underground and considered nearly invulnerable to a traditional military attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Obama to press Iran more forcefully and establish a “red line’’ that its nuclear program could not cross without risking a military confrontation.

At the United Nations, in his last scheduled international address before the November elections, Obama also reiterated his support for an independent Palestine and urged Muslim nations to confront extremists who would use a recent anti-Muslim video produced in the United States as a pretext for deadly violence, such as the assault in Libya that killed US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Obama condemed the video, which was circulated worldwide through the Internet and inflamed Muslims with its derogatory depiction of Mohammed. But he also defended free speech as a bedrock American principle and said that governments cannot repress speech without sacrificing personal liberties.

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“There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan,’’ Obama said.

“It is the obligation of all leaders, in all countries, to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism. It is time to marginalize those who – even when not directly resorting to violence – use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel as the central organizing principle of politics.’’

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at macquarrie@globe.com.

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