U.S. President Barack Obama will lead Western demands for action on the Syrian civil war at the start of the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, as a global children’s aid agency warned that Syrian children are being “badly traumatized” after witnessing atrocities in their country’s brutal conflict.
Obama will be one of the opening speakers at the annual meeting of world leaders where the 18-month-old Syria conflict, mounting fears of a military strike on Iran and anti-West protests in Muslim nations are set to dominate.
U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon, France’s President Francois Hollande and Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, a key backer of the Syrian opposition, are also expected to lambast President Bashar al-Assad on the opening morning.
The diplomatic assault will go on all week as Arab and European leaders vent the outrage which has increased since U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned Monday that the conflict is worsening with no immediate hope of ending the war.
Brahimi accused Assad of using “medieval” style torture on opponents, according to AFP.
The debate will probably be Obama’s last major foreign policy speech before the U.S. election on Nov. 6. There will be none of the normal meetings with world leaders. Obama will spend only a day in New York before heading back to the campaign trail against Mitt Romney.
“This is a speech in which the President will make clear his views, the administration’s positions and America’s role with regards to a lot of transformation that’s happening in the world,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Stung by the anti-Islam video which sparked deadly anti-U.S. protests in Muslim nations, Carney said Obama would reiterate that the United States will “never retreat from the world” and will deliver justice to those who harm Americans.
Obama is also likely to warn Iran that time is running out for a diplomatic exit from the showdown over its nuclear drive and renew his vow that he will use force, if necessary, to stop an Iranian atomic weapon.
Obama will warn Iran that the U.S. will “do what we must” to prevent it acquiring a nuclear weapon, according to advance excerpts from his speech released by the White House.
Obama will tell Iran there is still time for a diplomatic solution to the row over its nuclear program, but “that time is not unlimited.” He will reiterate that Washington will never accept the idea that a nuclear-armed Iran could simply be “contained.”
Meanwhile, a global children’s aid agency warned on Tuesday that Syrian children are being “badly traumatized” after witnessing killings, torture and other atrocities in their country’s brutal conflict.
Save the Children said it has collected “shocking testimony” revealing that “children have been the targets of brutal attacks, seen the deaths of parents, siblings and other children, and have witnessed and experienced torture.”
“Horrific acts of violence are being committed against children in Syria. These children need specialist care now to help them recover from their shocking experiences,” said Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children.
“Their testimonies should also be documented so that those who have perpetrated these violent acts against children are held accountable.”
Released Tuesday, “Untold Atrocities,” a collection of first-hand accounts of the conflict from Syrian children and parents after fleeing their country, contains graphic details of how children have been caught up in Syria’s war, “witnessing massacres and in some cases, experiencing torture.”
The report gave detailed accounts of several children who witnessed horrific atrocities in their country.
“Dead bodies along with injured people were scattered all over the ground. I found body parts all over each other. Dogs were eating the dead bodies for two days after the massacre,’ it quoted 14-year-old Hassan as saying.
Another Syrian boy, Wael, 16, said he knew a six-year-old boy who “was tortured more than anyone else ... he only survived for three days and then he simply died,” according to AFP.
The global organization urged the United Nations to step up its documentation of all violations of children's rights in Syria.
Save the Children said it has been refused permission to access Syria to help more children, “but much of the children’s testimony corroborates violations documented by the United Nations and human rights organizations in recent months.”
It added that it was providing emotional support to thousands of children who have fled to neighboring countries, helping them recover from their experiences and rebuild their lives.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 29,000 people have been killed since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule erupted last year. The United Nations puts the toll at more than 20,000.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has said more than 250,000 Syrian refugees have been registered in neighboring countries.