Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama tells Muslim world: 'America is not Islam's enemy'

Extracted from Daily Mail, UK, 27.01.09

In the his first major interview with an Arabic television station, President Obama also told Dubai-based satellite TV station Al Arabiya that it was his job to tell the Muslim world: 'Americans are not your enemy'.

He spoke as his new Middle East envoy arrived in Cairo today on a tour to kick off the new administration's efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and shore up a shaky Gaza truce.

George Mitchell, a former U.S. senator, was due to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tomorrow at the start of a week-long trip that will also take him to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, France and Britain.

'Sending George Mitchell to the Middle East is fulfilling my campaign promise that we're not going to wait until the end of my administration to deal with Palestinian and Israeli peace. We're going to start now,' Mr Obama told Al Arabiya.

'He's going to be speaking to all the major parties involved. And he will then report back to me. From there we will formulate a specific response.'

He added that he had told Mitchell to 'start by listening'.

'Now, my job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.

'What I want to communicate is the fact that in all my travels throughout the Muslim world, what I've come to understand is that regardless of your faith - and America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers - regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams.

'And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives.
'My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.'

He praised Saudi King Adbullah for putting forward an Arab plan for peace in the Middle East.

He said: 'It is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what's happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan.

These things are interrelated.'

Mr Obama said his administration had begun to fulfill his campaign promises by naming former U.S. Senator George Mitchell as a Middle East peace envoy and sending him to the region within days of becoming president. Mr Mitchell was travelling to the region on Monday evening.

He added: 'Ultimately we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what is best for them.
'But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realise that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people.

'And that instead, it's time to return to the negotiating table.'

The President urged people in the Muslim world to judge him by his actions, pointing to the decision to close the U.S. prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, where detainees in the U.S. war on terror are being held. He said he also would begin to follow through on his pledge to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq.

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