Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Competing narratives in Malaysia Airlines disaster coverage

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Kenya : Police arrest 8 over Mombasa rampage

Read more

FOCUS

Overfishing and the global appetite for bluefin tuna: can Tokyo turn the tide?

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Too many graphic images from Gaza ?

Read more

FASHION

Who's next in Paris, an event with international ready-to-wear and fashion accessories collections

Read more

ENCORE!

Tunisia's Carthage International Festival turns 50

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

Muslims and Christians clean up Bangui, and violence spirals out of control in Algeria's Gardaia

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Is there such thing as 'telegenic' victims of war?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

2014-07-22 07:21 IN THE FRENCH PRESS

Read more

  • Israel hits targets in Gaza despite diplomatic efforts for ceasefire

    Read more

  • France gives go-ahead to pro-Palestinian Paris rally

    Read more

  • Video: Lebanon fears fallout from regional turmoil

    Read more

  • US, European airlines suspend flights to Tel Aviv over Israel-Gaza conflict

    Read more

  • US courts' conflicting rulings cast shadow on future of Obamacare

    Read more

  • Australian veteran Rogers claims 16th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • French Jews mourn French-Israeli soldier killed in Gaza

    Read more

  • PSG punished by UEFA for abuse of disabled Chelsea fans

    Read more

  • Widodo wins Indonesian presidential election

    Read more

  • Ukraine rebels release bodies, black boxes from flight MH17

    Read more

  • Colombia's Rodriguez signs '€80m' contract with Real Madrid

    Read more

  • Children killed in minibus crash in eastern France

    Read more

  • Hollande says French warship delivery will ‘depend on Russia’s attitude’

    Read more

  • A call for harmony in riot-hit ‘Little Jerusalem’ Paris suburb

    Read more

  • Notorious ‘VIP’ prison in Paris closed for renovations

    Read more

Middle east

Obama on Mideast tour to improve ties with Muslim world

Video by Catherine NICHOLSON

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-04

US President Barack Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for talks with King Abdullah before heading to Cairo, where he will deliver an address on Thursday aimed at improving America's image within the Muslim world.

AFP - President Barack Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday on a Middle East mission featuring a historic address to the Muslim world and a new US drive to invigorate regional peacemaking.

Obama flew in aboard Air Force One to a red carpet welcome ahead of talks with King Abdullah as he seeks backing for an emerging US strategy of binding Arab states into a wider search for Israeli-Palestinian peace and to defuse regional tensions.

He will then travel on Thursday to Egypt, another pillar of the Arab world, to deliver a personal appeal for reconciliation to the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, and hold his first talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

King Abdullah has been seeking to relaunch a 2002 Arab-backed Middle East peace initiative, which has been praised by the Obama administration.

But it was unclear whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tough stand on settlements would scupper US hopes of convincing the Arab world to make concessions towards Israel to inject momentum into the process.

Obama signalled in an interview with National Public Radio before leaving Washington that he would keep pressing Israel on the issue, despite an emerging rift between the two close allies.

"I've said very clearly to the Israelis both privately and publicly that a freeze on settlements including natural growth is part of those obligations."

The Saudi initiative calls for full normalisation of relations between Arab states and Israel, a full withdrawal by Israel from Arab land, the creation of a Palestinian state and an "equitable" solution for Palestinian refugees.

Obama was also expected to use the talks with King Abdullah, whose country is OPEC's top exporter, to push for stability in oil prices and production.

The US president's trip comes amid a building confrontation between his administration and the Israeli government over West Bank settlements and Netanyahu's refusal to publicly endorse a two-state solution.

It also coincides with rising concern in the largely Sunni-ruled region over Shiite Iran's nuclear drive.

Anticipation mounted ahead of Obama's arrival for his first major foray into the Middle East, following a surprise visit of a few hours to Baghdad in April.

"King-Obama summit, key to global stability," Saudi newpaper Okaz proclaimed.

Egypt's state-owned Al-Rose al-Youssef warned Obama not to lecture.

"Don't be biased towards Israel, don't interfere in countries' internal affairs and don't give lessons in democracy," it said.

Obama's speech on Thursday at Cairo University fulfills a campaign promise to address the of giving an address to the Muslim world after relations soured over the deeply unpopular Iraq war, the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal and the Bush-era stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

In Israel, there was concern the president's outreach to Muslims could come at the expense of the US-Israeli alliance.

"The American president has the right to try to reconcile with the Muslim world and compete with Al-Qaeda or Iran for its heart," said Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, a close Netanyahu ally.

"We have to make sure that this will not harm our common interests."

Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri told Egyptians to shun Obama, saying his visit was at the invitation of the "torturers of Egypt" and the "slaves of America."

"His bloody messages were received and are still being received by Muslims, and they will not be concealed by public relations campaigns or by farcical visits or elegant words," Zawahiri said in an audiotape, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

The son of an Kenyan father with Muslim heritage, Obama spent part of his childhood in majority-Muslim Indonesia. His middle name Hussein, which sometimes was seen as a liability on the campaign trail, doubtless will be viewed more charitably in many venues during his Middle East travels.

But some democracy campaigners in Egypt raised concerns at Obama's choice of venue for his major address, saying it rewarded an authoritarian regime wit ha poor human rights record.

The White House vowed to unleash all its technological and communications clout to ensure that as many people as possible see and hear the historic address, even through social networking sites.

 

Date created : 2009-06-03

COMMENT(S)