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Obama rallies UN over Middle East

US President Barack Obama has challenged the countries of the United Nations to unite around peace efforts that could achieve agreement within a year to create an independent Palestine and a secure Israel.

Mr Obama, in a speech to the UN General Assembly, urged fellow world leaders to press forward with renewed determination in the quest for peace in the Middle East, an effort that he acknowledged has encountered "few peaks and many valleys".

Without an agreement, he said, "more blood will be shed" and "this Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity".

Mr Obama, in his second address to the world body, spoke with resolve of the need to address trouble spots around the world, but he tended first to the economic concerns that abound both at home and abroad.

"There is much to show for our efforts," he said, recalling the economic turmoil of years past.

"We cannot - and will not - rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity for all Americans and for people around globe."

On a pressing security issue, Mr Obama defended his administration's approach to engaging Iran in negotiations over its nuclear programme - an effort that has failed thus far. In July the administration imposed a new set of sanctions on Iran.

"The door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it," he said.

"But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear programme."

Iran recently has indicated interest in restarting talks with the West, and on Wednesday the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany offered Iran another chance to enter negotiations.

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