Obama vows to defend human rights in Mideast
WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama vowed to maintain the pressure on the Syrian regime and to defend human rights in the Middle East on Tuesday, but offered no new ideas to halt bloodshed in the Arab world.
"In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy," he declared, in his annual State of the Union address to the US Congress.
"The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt. But we can, and will, insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people," he said.
For the past two years the major countries of the Middle East have been in upheaval following pro-democracy demonstrations that triggered revolutions in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and civil war in Syria.
The United States was caught flat-footed by the revolts, which toppled foes like Libya's Moamer Gathafi and allies like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, and left behind countries in turmoil or outright combat.
The United Nations said Tuesday that 70,000 people have died in fighting between Bashar al-Assad's brutal Syrian regime and rebel forces, increasing the pressure on the United States to intervene to find a solution.
But Obama, who is planning a trip to the region, offered no new plan.
"We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian," he said.
"And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month."