News / USA

Obama Defends Handling of Quran Burning Threat

President Obama speaking at a White House news conference, 10 Sep 2010
President Obama speaking at a White House news conference, 10 Sep 2010
Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama says his administration was correct in contacting a Christian minister in Florida to persuade him to call off his plan to burn the Quran.  The president held a news conference Friday, also discussing terrorism, Mideast peace prospects and the U.S. economy.

President Obama defended the decision to have Defense Secretary Robert Gates contact the Reverend Terry Jones, saying Muslim anger over the minister's plan to burn the Islamic holy book has put American service members in jeopardy.

"We are seeing today riots in Kabul, riots in Afghanistan, that threaten our young men and women in uniform.  And so we have got an obligation to send a very clear message that this kind of behavior or threats of action put our young men and women in harm's way," he said.

The leader of the small independent church said Thursday he would cancel his protest, because of an agreement by an imam in New York to move a proposed Islamic center and mosque away from the area of the September 11, 2001 attacks.  The imam has said there is no such agreement.

Watch Dan Robinson's Companion Video Report:

At Friday's news conference, Mr. Obama repeated his view that construction of the New York mosque should be allowed, because freedom of religion is a basic right in the United States. "If you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site," he said.

One day before the ninth anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington, Mr. Obama was asked whether he is still focused on capturing al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. "Capturing or killing bin Laden and Zawahiri would be extremely important to our national security.  It does not solve all our problems, but it remains a high priority of this administration," he said.

The president responded to questions from 13 reporters during the 80-minute session, his first full news conference since May.

Mr. Obama was asked whether plans are still moving forward to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  He said he regrets missing his January, 2010 deadline for doing so, but remains committed to closing the facility. "One where we have fallen short is closing Guantanamo.  I wanted to close it sooner, but we have missed that deadline.  It is not for lack of trying.  It is because the politics of it are difficult," he said.

On reports of persistent corruption in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama said progress has been made, but he has repeatedly emphasized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai the need to clean up his government. "The only way that you are going to have a stable government over the long term is if the Afghan people feel that you are looking out for them, and that means that the tradition of corruption in the government is reduced.  And we are going to keep on putting pressure on them on that front," he said.

The president also said he has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend a partial moratorium on building Jewish settlements in the West Bank, to help advance Mideast peace talks.

He said both Mr. Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were serious and cordial as the talks recently reopened, but he said they will have to overcome many challenges. "We can facilitate, we can encourage, we can tell them that we will stand behind them in their efforts and are willing to contribute as part of the broader international community in making this work, but ultimately the parties have to make these decisions for themselves," he said.

Much of the news conference focused on the struggling U.S. economy and the Democratic Party's slumping poll numbers.  Mr. Obama announced no new plans Friday.  But he expressed optimism that voters in the November midterm elections will prefer his economic policies to those of the previous Republican administration.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More