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US Lawmakers React to Obama Speech


Lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have generally praised President Barack Obama's outreach to the Muslim world in his speech delivered in Cairo. But majority Democrats voiced more positive assessments than minority Republicans.

At her weekly news briefing, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Americans should be proud of the president's speech, saying he delivered a positive message to the Muslim world about the need to end violence and promote human rights.

"I think it was an absolute triumph. He made us all very proud by speaking in a very positive way about a new beginning with the Muslim world and how we can work together for the necessity to fight, to work together against violence and I was so pleased that he addressed many of the human rights issues, including women's rights," said Pelosi.

House Republican leader John Boehner, called President Obama's speech "thoughtful and optimistic."

But he had less favorable words about the president's remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, suggesting the president was wrong in placing equal blame for violence on Israel and the Palestinians:

"The Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and how he can put in the same sentence, put them in the same box, I am a bit concerned about. Because Hamas is a terrorist organization. They have been funded by the Syrians and the Iranians, and I just do not think the Israelis deserve to be put into the same playpen as terrorists," he said.

Boehner and other Republicans also focused on Iran. Republican whip Eric Cantor said President Obama did not put enough emphasis on "the root causes of violence in the Middle East, the sponsorship of terrorist activity by the regime in Iran."

Iran also figured in a statement from the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

While not reacting directly to the president's speech, Ros-Lehtinen said, "prospects for Israel-Palestinian peace are undermined by any acceptance of violent Islamist extremist groups and legitimization or appeasement of their state sponsors."

On Iran, she said responsible nations need to recognize "the clock is ticking and the window to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities gets smaller by the day."

Ros-Lehtinen's statement followed what she said was a meeting with Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, and a classified briefing on Iran's nuclear program with Dennis Ross, the State Department Special Advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia.

There was no immediate statement from the Democrat chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Howard Berman.

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