Walid Moallem, Foreign Minister of Syria, addresses the 67th session...

Walid Moallem, Foreign Minister of Syria, addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. (Oct. 1, 2012) Credit: AP

UNITED NATIONS -- Syria's foreign minister Monday shot back at world leaders who have called for President Bashar Assad to step down while, he said, they are supporting terrorists vying to overthrow the leader.

"We heard calls from this podium . . . that invite the president of the Syrian Arab Republic to step down," said Walid Al-Moualem, in a speech at the UN General Assembly. "This is a blatant interference in the domestic affairs of Syria."

In remarks last week, President Barack Obama led the chorus asking Assad to leave.

"And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop," Obama said.

Al-Moualem said Syria has been under siege by terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, and that dozens of countries who seek Assad's ouster are using a double standard in supporting "terrorism" while condemning it.

"Perhaps, worst of all, is to see that permanent members of the Security Council, who launched wars under the pretext of combating terrorism, now support terrorism in my country," he said.

One opposition leader said the Syrian government is responsible for the bloodshed.

"It is the regime's mindless, brutal and criminal military crackdown that pushed the Syrian people to ask for help from the international community, from NATO and from the devil himself if necessary to protect them," Haitham Manna, of the National Coordination Body, told The Associated Press.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said most human rights violations have been committed by Syrian troops, but that opposition groups are responsible for some, too. He said the crisis would dominate the work of the General Assembly. Many speakers have used their address to comment on Syria.

Despite lamenting that the UN Security Council could not agree on a resolution when some members sought the use of force, Ban said the crisis must be resolved politically.

Russia and China vetoed three resolutions that could allow for the use of force.

North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon also criticized Western powers, notably the United States, which he said made the Korean peninsula "the world's most dangerous hot spot, where a spark of fire could set off a thermonuclear war."

He added: "It is none other than . . . [North Korea's] patience and self-defensive war deterrent that prevented the continued military provocations of the U.S. from turning into an all-out war on the Korean peninsula."

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