President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks to workers at...

President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks to workers at the Ford Kansas City Stamping Plant in Liberty, Mo. (Sept. 20, 2013) Credit: AP

Whether it's Syria's use of chemical weapons, a possible thaw in relations with Iran or Saturday's attack in Kenya, President Barack Obama will have plenty of fresh global conflicts to discuss Tuesday when he addresses the UN General Assembly.

Obama arrived in Manhattan Monday for the annual global meeting, but first attended a forum with other world leaders and met with families of the U.S. mission to the UN.

Fighter jets above Manhattan escorted three small planes out of the temporary no-fly zone set up for the assembly. The planes posed no threat, officials said.

Obama will address the UN Tuesday knowing he has its support after he clinched a deal with Russia putting the organization at the center of efforts to secure Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical arsenal.

Obama will also consider overtures from Iran's new president, Hasan Rouhani, to restore relations between the two countries. Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, didn't rule out a meeting or handshake between the president and Rouhani at the assembly.

But before any UN diplomacy, Obama met Monday with Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan and hosted a forum on strengthening civil society worldwide. Obama also held a gathering for visiting heads of state and government.

Absent from his mostly ceremonial itinerary was the strong rhetoric he used in making the case for a military strike against Syria in retaliation for Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons.

Just weeks ago, Obama made clear he was prepared to bypass the UN, a move UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said would violate the organization's charter prohibiting force by one member state against another without UN Security Council approval.

The Obama administration's deal with Russia puts the UN in charge of removing and storing recovered chemical weapons. Monday, Obama focused instead on the Kenya attacks and other issues facing Africa.

He met with Jonathan and expressed his condolences for victims of the attack in Nairobi. Obama called for greater cooperation on security with Nigeria.

Later, he chaired a forum on the role of civil society in the world, praising the contributions that organizations and ordinary citizens have played in dismantling apartheid in South Africa and promoting freedom abroad while improving women's and civil rights, and protecting workers and the environment in the United States.

He said his experience as a community organizer in Chicago gave him an understanding of the power of activism. "I know what active citizens can do," he said. In the United States, he said, "one of our most precious gifts has been trying to set an example of how active citizens can make the country strong." With Bloomberg News

Key speakers at Tuesday's UN General Assembly


Barack Obama, U.S. president

Dilma Roussef, president of Brazil

François Hollande, president of France

King Abdullah II, Jordan

Sebastián Piñera Echeñique, president of Chile

Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, president of Colombia

Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa


Hasan Rouhani, president of Iran

Cristina Fernández, president of Argentina

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