Addressing a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly today, US president Barack Obama urged countries to stand up for gay rights.

The president, who was discussing the Palestine statehood bid, said: “No country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”

He added: “I know that there is no straight line to progress, no single path to success. We come from different cultures, and carry with us different histories.

“But let us never forget that even as we gather here as heads of different governments, we represent citizens who share the same basic aspirations – to live with dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our families and our God.

“To live in the kind of peace that makes life worth living.”

Yesterday, the US repealed the 18-year-old ban on gay and lesbian troops serving openly.

Mr Obama was arguing against a proposed resolution calling for recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state, which the US will veto.

The president’s administration is urging for the vote to be deferred and for Palestine and Israel to return to negotiations.

He told the General Assembly: “I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.

“Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians — not us — who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.”