"Many Americans are troubled by the developments in the Middle East," Romney said. "Syria has witnessed the killings of tens of thousands of people. The president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. ... And Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons capability.
"We feel that we are at the mercy of events, rather than shaping events," he added.
Although Romney did not overtly criticize Obama's foreign policy in the speech, as he had on Monday, his words took on a sharper edge when he suggested to CNN during an interview that the White House had misled the American people by not characterizing the violence in Libya as a terrorist attack.
"The White House's failure to acknowledge that the assassination of our ambassador was a terrorist attack, a terrorist event, suggests that they are trying to paper over the seriousness of what's happening in the Middle East," Romney said.
In his New York speech, Romney said that if he is elected, he will create "prosperity pacts" in the Middle East, private-public partnerships designed to remove barriers to free markets around the region. He said developing countries would receive U.S. assistance "focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law and property rights."
Obama, in a speech later in the morning to the U.N. General Assembly, said the recent assaults on U.S. citizens in Libya "were attacks on America" and called on world leaders to join in confronting the root causes of the rage across the Muslim world.
But in a slap at Romney, Obama said "let us remember that this is a season of progress" in the Arab World, where autocratic leaders have been deposed in several countries.
In another jab, he said, "Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on peace."
Obama didn't mention it, but Romney says on a videotape that recently came to light that "the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace. The pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish."
Espo reported from Washington. AP White House correspondent Ben Feller in New York and Associated Press writer Philip Elliott in Washington contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.