Obama Outreach Weighed in Mideast
By Paula Wolfson
26 April 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama has made dialogue with the Middle East a priority in his early months in office. As the Obama administration approaches the 100 day mark, regional leaders are assessing the result.
Jordan's King Abdullah is one of the new American president's strongest allies in the Middle East.
The two struck up a friendship during then-candidate Barack Obama's trip to the region last year. And the Jordanian monarch came to the White House last week as a prelude to a new round of personal diplomacy by the president designed to get the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track.
Before leaving Washington, King Abdullah sat down for an interview broadcast Sunday on the NBC television news program Meet the Press.
He said President Obama's message of engagement has been well received in the Middle East.
"Wherever you go - and all the leaders I have spoken to in the Middle East - this president provides hope," said King Abdullah.
King Abdullah said he has urged the president to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, saying that is the key to resolving all the other problems in the region.
"Unless we solve the core issue of the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Arab challenges then we will always be an area of instability that costs all of us," he said.
He was then asked about President Obama's gestures to Iran. King Abdullah urged Tehran not to turn away.
"I think that President Obama's gesture of dialogue is one that Iran should not take for granted," said the Jordanian monarch.
But the response from Iran's president is mixed at best.
In a recorded interview aired Sunday on ABC's This Week program, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his government is working on a proposal for talks. But he declined to say when it might be ready or what it might contain.
"We think that we should prepare the ground so that all states and peoples can have their say," said Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iran's president also defended statements he made last Monday before a U.N. conference in which he called Israel the most cruel and racist regime in the world. Western nations walked out of the meeting hall in protest, and Mr. Obama condemned the remarks.
President Obama has made several overtures to Iran since taking office - part of his outreach to the Muslim world. Last month, he delivered a videotaped address to the Iranian people as they marked the Persian New Year.
President Ahmadinejad's comments in the ABC interview only added to the muddled response coming from Iranian leaders. And there are now signs the Obama administration is waiting for the results of Iran's presidential election in June.