UNITED NATIONS – Egypts new president, Mohammed Morsi, assigned himself the heavyweights role in the Middle East on Wednesday, declaring in his first speech to the United Nations that the civil war raging in Syria is the tragedy of the age and must be brought to an end.
In a wide-ranging address that touched on all major issues confronting the region, Morsi also decried Israeli settlement-building on territory that Palestinians claim for a future state and condemned a film produced in the United States that denigrates Islams Prophet Muhammad.
He urged all U.N. member nations to join in an effort to end what he called the catastrophe in Syria that pits the regime of Bashar Assad against opposition forces trying to end 40 years of dictatorship. More than 30,000 people have been killed in the 18-month conflict.
Morsi has called for Assad to step down and said Wednesday that the bloodshed in Syria and the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded must be stopped.
He also demanded that the United Nations grant membership to the Palestinians, with or without a peace agreement with Israel.
The fruits of dignity and freedom must not remain far from the Palestinian people, he said, adding that it was shameful that U.N. resolutions are not enforced.
Morsi also denounced the anti-Islam video and the violence that swept Muslim countries last week in reaction to the video.
The head of the Arab League, meanwhile, called for the international community to criminalize blasphemy, warning that insults to religion pose a serious threat to global peace and security.
Nabil Elarabys comments to a special session of the U.N. Security Council put him at direct odds with the United States and its Western allies, which are resolutely opposed to restrictions on freedom of expression. However, Elaraby said that if the West has criminalized acts that result in bodily harm, it must also criminalize acts that cause psychological and spiritual harm.