By EDITH M. LEDERER
Associated Press UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United Nations chief called for world leaders Wednesday to join the international campaign to ease the plight of nearly unprecedented numbers of refugees, the displaced and victims of violence in a world wracked by wars and the swift-spreading and deadly Ebola epidemic.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said leaders must find "seeds of hope" in the turmoil and despair of a world that may seem like it's falling apart with people crying out for protection from greed and inequality.
"Not since the end of the Second World War have there been so many refugees, displace people and asylum seekers. Never before has the United Nations been asked to reach so many people with emergency food assistance and other life-saving supplies," Ban said in his state of the world address at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting.
U.S. President Barack Obama, taking the podium soon after, urged world leaders to join a global coalition to destroy the Islamic State group which has terrorized people in parts of Iraq and Syria and to address "the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics." He also asked the leaders to tackle the failure to confront forcefully enough "the intolerance, sectarianism, and hopelessness that feeds violent extremism in too many parts of the globe."
Obama will chair a Security Council meeting later Wednesday at which members are expected to adopt a resolution that would require all countries to prevent the recruitment and transport of foreign fighters preparing to join terrorist groups such as the Islamic State.
Ban pointed to crises piling up in the Mideast and Africa, disease spreading, Cold War ghosts returning and much of the Arab spring going violently wrong.
"But leadership is precisely about finding the seeds of hope and nurturing them into something bigger," the U.N. chief told presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and ministers from the U.N.'s 193 member states.
"That is our duty," Ban said. "That is my call to you today."
Many diplomats hope that Islamic State group crisis won't drown out the plight of millions of civilians caught in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ukraine and Gaza; the misery of the largest number of refugees since World War II; and global support for new U.N. goals to fight poverty and address climate change.
Obama said the outbreak of Ebola that has overwhelmed public health systems in West Africa, Russian aggression in Europe, and the brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq which "forces us to look into the heart of darkness" are symptoms of a broader problem, "the failure of international system to keep pace with an interconnected world."
He said leaders have a choice: "We can reaffirm our collective responsibility to confront global problems, or be swamped by more and more outbreaks of instability."
"For America, the choice is clear," Obama said. "We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort."
Looking at the array of complex challenges, Norway's Foreign Minister Borge Brende told The Associated Press: "It's unprecedented in decades, that's for sure."