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U.N. General Assembly: Day 1


To the United Nations where President Trump addressed the U.N. General Assembly today. His remarks stood in stark contrast with those of other world leaders gathered in New York for the yearly event. The others talked about solving global problems together, whereas President Trump laid out his reasons for pulling out of international agreements. In a moment, we're going to talk with NATO's secretary general. But first, NPR's Michele Kelemen has this report.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Since he spoke at the U.N. a year ago, President Trump has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, pulled out of the U.N. Human Rights Council and threatened to undercut the International Criminal Court. Today he explained the moves this way.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will never surrender America's sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable global bureaucracy. America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.

KELEMEN: Trump used his address to defend his protectionist trade moves and his decision to cut the number of refugees the U.S. will take in. The solution to the world's migration problem, he argued, is to help people improve their lives at home.


TRUMP: Make their countries great again.

KELEMEN: Even before Trump spoke, the U.N. secretary general, Antonio Guterres, was sounding alarmed by what he calls populism and polarization.


ANTONIO GUTERRES: Migrants and refugees continue to face discrimination and demagoguery in the context of clearly insufficient international cooperation.

KELEMEN: Multilateralism is under fire, the secretary general said, just when it's needed most not only when it comes to refugees but also to deal with what he described as runaway climate change.


GUTERRES: Individual leaders have the duty to advance the well-being of their people. But it runs deeper. Together, as guardians of the common good, we also have a duty to promote and support a reformed, reinvigorated and strengthened multilateral system.

KELEMEN: Guterres didn't mention Trump by name, nor did others, though one by one speakers pushed back against Trump's worldviews. Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned of a global trade war as he addressed the General Assembly through an interpreter.


PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: (Through interpreter) None of us can remain silent to the arbitrary cancelation of commercial agreements, the spreading prevalence of protectionism and the use of economic sanctions as weapons because the negative effects of these twisted developments will eventually affect all countries.

KELEMEN: Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, accused Trump of bullying and of violating a U.N. Security Council resolution by pulling out of the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions. He, too, spoke through an interpreter.


PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI: (Through interpreter) The United Nations should not allow its decisions to fall victim to the domestic election and propaganda games of some of its members and should not allow any member states to dodge the execution of its international commitments.

KELEMEN: Even a close U.S. partner, French President Emmanuel Macron, said he disagrees with the U.S. strategy on Iran and on trade. He urged countries not to sign trade deals that don't comply with the Paris climate accord. The Trump administration pulled out of that in its first year in office. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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