International

Leaders to watch at the UN this week

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UNITED NATIONS: US President Barack Obama will be making his farewell, Canada’s Justin Trudeau will be debuting and leaders from the strife-torn Middle East will take turns at the podium all within a few hours. 

Here’s a look at some of the leaders to watch during this week’s United Nations General Assembly debate in New York.

Goodbyes

Barack Obama: With less than two months to go before the US election, Obama will deliver his eighth and final address to world leaders on Tuesday. He is likely to focus on the US-led coalition’s war against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq and combating violent extremism worldwide. Later the same day, he hosts a pledging conference aimed at generating new offers of aid and safe havens for the world’s 21 million refugees, many of whom have fled the war in Syria.

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Ban Ki-moon: The former South Korean foreign minister steps down on December 31 after 10 years in what has been described as the world’s toughest job. The race for the next secretary-general is in full swing, with a nominee expected to be picked possibly as early as next month.

International debuts

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Theresa May: Three months after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union sent shockwaves across the continent, the new prime minister comes to the United Nations to tell the world that London remains a global player, despite the months and years of uncertainty ahead over the Brexit negotiations.

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Justin Trudeau: The Canada-is-back prime minister will use the UN podium to hammer home his message that his country is re-engaging on the world stage. It will be Trudeau’s third visit to the UN — where he is nothing less than a sensation for Canada’s open-arms welcome to Syrian refugees — but his first address to the annual General Assembly gathering.

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Michel Temer: The new Brazilian president, freshly installed after the impeachment of his predecessor Dilma Rousseff, is set to be first to speak at the UN General Assembly.

Middle East headliners

Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Having recently survived an attempted coup d’etat, the Turkish president will be closely watched for his pronouncements on Syria, where his troops are fighting Islamist rebels near the border, and on repression at home.

In the space of a few hours on Thursday, the General Assembly will hear from the leaders of Iran, the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Lebanon. It’s a rare occurrence for them to be at the podium on the same day.

Hassan Rouhani: With the Iran nuclear deal in full swing, the Iranian leader will be closely watched for his pronouncements on Syria, the Sunni-Shia divide in the Middle East and Yemen.

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Benjamin Netanyahu: The Israeli prime minister has grabbed the spotlight at past UN summits with tough-worded speeches accompanied by props such as a big diagram of a bomb labelled “Iran.” Last year, he remained silent for 45 seconds to protest what he termed the UN’s failure to condemn the Iranian threat to Israel.

Mahmud Abbas: Just one speaker ahead of Netanyahu, the Palestinian president takes the podium at a time when Israel is under fire for building settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, making the quest for a Palestinian state ever more elusive.

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