Despite al-Assad's veiled threat, positive progress has been made on the Syrian chemical weapons deal brokered by the United States and Russia in Geneva. Over the weekend, the United States said it was pleasantly surprised by the extent of Syria's initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile reported to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The United States is pushing for a U.N. Security Council resolution this week in New York to enforce the Geneva deal.
Brazil outrage over U.S. surveillance
Obama faced criticism Tuesday from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who used her U.N. speech to call allegations of U.S. surveillance of her country "totally unacceptable."
Rousseff referred to classified leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that made public how the U.S. government had access to phone and Internet records, including foreign information.
She said the U.S. surveillance intercepted private details of Brazilian citizens and businesses, along with "communications by Brazilian diplomatic representation offices, including the permanent mission of Brazil with the United Nations and even the very presidency of the republic of Brazil."
"Meddling in such a manner in the life and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and such is an affrontment to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations," she said, adding Brazil would propose U.N. action intended to prevent the manipulation of cyberspace as "a weapon of war."
Because of the surveillance controversy, Rousseff postponed a state visit to Washington that had been planned for next month. The White House said the postponement was a joint decision.