UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon railed on Friday against radicals fostering tensions between the Western and Islamic worlds, saying the international community should stand together against those seeking to demonize "the other."
"Let us acknowledge that we live in a world where the smallest group can inflict large damage," Ban said. "That damage can be multiplied by loose language in politics and beyond."
He was addressing a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative aimed at combating extremism through dialogue between different cultures and religions.
"Let us stand against those who seek to demonize the other," he told the grouping that met on the sidelines of the annual summit of world leaders at the United Nations.
Ban's speech came a day after President Obama and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad traded accusations about their nations' nuclear programs.
Still, both left the door open to further negotiations about the nuclear impasse.
In his speech Thursday to the annual summit of world leaders, Ahmadinejad also raised the possibility that "some segments within the U.S. government" had orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York — a statement that prompted members of the American delegation to walk out in protest from the U.N. General Assembly.
Delegations from all 27 European Union nations followed the Americans out along with representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Costa Rica, an EU diplomat said.
Obama responded to Ahmadinejad in a BBC Persian service interview Friday saying: "Well, it was offensive. It was hateful."
"And particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just a little north of Ground Zero, where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable," Obama said.
Iran is expected to remain high on the agenda of the General Assembly's session.