On Arab TV Network, Obama Urges Dialogue

January 27, 2009

Author: Alan Cowell

Source: The New York Times


In an interview broadcast Tuesday on one of the Middle East’s major news channels, President Obama struck a conciliatory tone toward the Islamic world, saying he wanted to persuade Muslims that “the Americans are not your enemy.” He also said the moment was ripe for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The interview with Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language channel based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, signaled a shift — in style and manner, at least — from the Bush administration, with Mr. Obama offering what he depicted as a new readiness to listen rather than to dictate.

It was Mr. Obama’s first televised interview from the White House and the first with any foreign news outlet.

In the interview, which was taped on Monday night and broadcast throughout the Muslim world on Tuesday, Mr. Obama said it was his job “to communicate to the Muslim world that the Americans are not your enemy.”

He added that “we sometimes make mistakes,” but said that America was not born as a colonial power and that he hoped for a restoration of “the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.”

Mr. Obama spoke as his special Middle East envoy, George J. Mitchell, arrived in Egypt to begin an eight-day tour that will include stops in Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, France and Britain. In Egypt, Mr. Mitchell planned to meet President Hosni Mubarak.