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Mixed Reaction to Obama Speech


Much international reaction to U.S. President Barack Obama's call for a "new beginning" in U.S. ties with the Muslim world has been cautiously positive - even from traditional U.S. rivals such as the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Religious leaders at Al-Azhar, the ancient Islamic university that co-sponsored the president's address, welcomed his remarks as a sign "of a promising new era in relations."

Some in the Middle East are welcoming what they call Mr. Obama's frank talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel's government said Israel shares "President Obama's hope that the American effort heralds the opening of a new era that will bring an end to the conflict."

But Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in advance of the speech it is not possible for the U.S. to bring about changes through speeches and mottos. He called on Washington to take practical steps to address its "mistakes and wrongdoings" in the Middle East.

Iran's state news agency says Khamenei spoke Thursday at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the death of supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led Iran's Islamic revolution in the late 1970s that toppled the country's former U.S.-backed monarch, the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

And Israeli settlers in the West Bank, whose outposts the president criticized in the speech, called the U.S. president "naive" and "out of touch." The Israeli government statement made no reference to the settlements.

Lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah from the Lebanese group Hezbollah said the Islamic world needs action, not lectures or sermons.

Pakistani students told VOA they found the speech impressive but would be more impressed by concrete changes in some U.S. policies. Pakistan's Foreign Office told VOA Urdu service it was "very encouraging" and could be a significant step toward bridging the gap between the Islamic world and the West.

A U.N. spokeswoman said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "strongly encouraged" and believes the Cairo speech "is a crucial step in bridging divides."

The head of the Washington-based U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project, Rob Fersh, told VOA the president "hit exactly the right tone" regarding changes that need to be made to improve relations.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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