(AFP) – Jun 4, 2009
PARIS(AFP) (AFP) — International leaders hailed President Barack Obama's speech on ties with the Muslim world as opening a "new page" but arch foes called for Washington to deliver action rather than words.
Washington's closest allies in the Middle East greeted Obama's speech in Cairo with hope while its most bitter rivals expressed scepticism at his call for a "new beginning" to end a cycle of "suspicion and discord".
The US leader laid out a new US blueprint for the Middle East, including a new Palestinian state and efforts to defuse a nuclear showdown with Iran.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed hope that the speech would have a "positive impact" on the moribund Middle East peace process and "herald the opening of a new chapter in relations between the United States and the Islamic world."
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana hailed it as a "remarkable speech" that "without any doubt is going to open a new page in the relation with the Arab-Muslim world and I hope in the problems we have in so many theatres in the region."
Israel, the top US ally in the region, said it hoped Obama's "important speech" would spark a "new kind of reconciliation" between Arabs and Israelis, but warned that its security was key in any peace drive.
"We share President Obama's hope that the American effort will herald in a new age that will bring an end to the conflict and pan-Arab recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people living in peace and security in the Middle East," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.
The Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers cautiously welcomed Obama's speech, in which he also urged the militant group to recognise Israel's right to exist, but it called for his words to be followed by action.
"This address must be judged not on its form, but by the policies that Obama will apply on the ground to respect the freedom of people and their democratic choices and the right of the Palestinian people to its land," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum.
"It had many contradictions, all the while reflecting tangible change," Barhum told AFP.
But another Islamist movement on a US list of terror organisations, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, said Obama offered "no real change" to US policy in the Middle East.
"The Islamic and Arab world does not need lectures, but real acts starting with a radical change toward the Palestinian cause," Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah lawmaker, told AFP.
"The problem of Arabs and Muslims lies with Washington's support for Israeli aggression in the region, especially on the people of Lebanon and Palestine."
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not mention Obama's address, but in his own speech said the United States was detested across the Middle East.
"The new US government seeks to transform this image. I say firmly, that this will not be achieved by talking, speech and slogans," Khamenei said addressing thousands of Iranians on the 20th anniversary of the death of the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Obama said the showdown with Iran over its nuclear programme had reached a decisive point but that Tehran had the right to peaceful nuclear power if it abided by international treaties.
Iraq welcomed the "positive direction" showcased in Obama's speech, saying it would help fight extremist ideology in the Middle East.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the speech opened the door for a cultural dialogue between Western and Islamic societies.
But Iraq's radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said he would trust Obama "only after their (US) withdrawal from our beloved Iraq and Muslim Afghanistan and their withdrawal of support for the Israeli enemy, and I hope for this from him."
"The relationship between the West and Islam -- the years of tension and confrontation should come to an end now," Arab League chief Amr Moussa told the BBC.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office said the speech would be received positively in Afghanistan since it "asks for restarting relations with the Islamic world based on mutual trust and mutual interest".
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