Middle East Officials Praise Obama Speech

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UNITED NATIONS—Some Middle Eastern leaders praised President Barack Obama's address to the United Nations as welcome advice for a turbulent region, while Syrian opposition leaders expressed disappointment saying his demand that the country's ruler step down did not go far enough.

Mr. Obama mentioned Syria several times in a 30 minute speech in which he surveyed the uneven progress of the Arab Spring, saying "We again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end."

But he outlined no new steps to help rebels topple Mr. Assad or form a new government, leaving opposition leaders unsatisfied.

"While statements of support are welcome, the slaughter of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians continues unchecked, and we need action more than words," said Radwan Ziadeh, a spokesman for the opposition Coalition for a Democratic Syria.

Other Middle Eastern officials said they valued Mr. Obama's call for tolerance.

"It was a very good opening speech," said Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati. "I agreed with it 99%, particularly his point that we need to expect and have openness, before it is too late."

Mr. Obama in his address called on new rulers around the world to govern fairly and openly, to permit dissent but discourage violence.

One Arab diplomat who was not authorized to speak publicly to the press, said: "The key message was that we need to fight for tolerance and accept people as they are. This was very important. We cannot be dragged down into violence by what is after all a very small minority."

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