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Persian Gulf Eager to See What Obama Presidency Brings 


As U.S. President Barack Obama was sworn into office Tuesday, many in the Muslim world watched with interest. As he begins his first full day in office, many in the Middle East will also be watching for signs the new American president will move quickly to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and improve relations with the region in general.

Barack Obama's inauguration dominated newspaper headlines in the Persian Gulf, but there was a sense the region is eager to see action and better relations once the new American president gets down to work.

The headline in the National newspaper quoted a line from Mr. Obama's inauguration speech, "to the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward." The Gulf News headline talks of Mr. Obama ushering in a "new era of hope."

Richard Thompson, editor of the Middle East Economic Digest, says there is a lot of hope here for change in U.S. relations with the region.

"It is a hope for a move away from "you are either with me or against me" approach of the previous administration, a more conciliatory line towards Iran, towards Iraq, towards some of the thorny political issues," said Thompson.

The top issue, says Thompson, is the need for Washington to help resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The recent Israeli offensive in Gaza has left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead and enraged many in the Islamic world.

Ahmad Al-Gurashi, a news editor for the Arabic satellite station, MBC News, says people in the Gulf believe President Obama will address the Palestinian issue.

"They think Obama would understand the area better, would know that the Palestinian question is the most important question in this area, it should be sorted out," he said.

He also says Mr. Obama's own ethnic background makes him more appealing to people in the region.

"He is African-American, his family, extended family are Muslims, all these factors, everyone would be very, very happy not only at welcome Obama but also America," he said.

But opinions on the streets of Dubai are divided on whether President Obama can really improve US relations.

Barack Obama campaigned on the promise of change. Many in the Middle East say they hope he is ready to make it happen.

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