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Obama calls for dismantling of IS 'network of death'

Published:Thursday | September 25, 2014 | 9:00 AM
AP United States President Barack Obama addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters yesterday.

UNITED NATIONS (AP): Declaring the world at a crossroads between war and peace, President Barack Obama vowed at the UN yesterday to lead a coalition to dismantle an Islamic State (IS) "network of death" that has wreaked havoc in the Middle East and drawn the US back into military action.

Speaking to the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly, Obama said the US would be a "respectful and constructive partner" in confronting the militants through force. But he also implored Muslims in the Middle East to reject the ideology that has spawned groups like the Islamic State and to cut off funding that has allowed that terror group and others to thrive.

"Ultimately, the task of rejecting sectarianism and extremism is a generational task, a task for the people of the Middle East themselves," Obama said in his 38-minute address. "No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds."

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The president's remarks came against the backdrop of an expanded US military campaign against the Islamic State group, with airstrikes now hitting targets in both Iraq and Syria. A coalition of five Arab nations joined the US this week in the strikes in Syria: Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The US also opened another military front with airstrikes this week against a new al-Qaida cell that the Pentagon said was "nearing the execution phase" of a direct attack on the US or Europe.

The threats have drawn Obama back into conflicts in the Middle East that he has long sought to avoid, particularly in Syria, which is mired in a bloody three-year civil war. Just months ago, the president appeared to be on track to fulfil his pledge to end the US-led wars he inherited in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama sought to distinguish this current military campaign from those lengthy wars, declaring that he has no intention of sending US troops to occupy foreign lands.

"We will neither tolerate terrorist safe havens nor act as an occupying power," he said.