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World Reaction Mixed on Obama's Cairo Speech

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President Obama's much anticipated speech to Muslims was watched by people of all faiths around the world. The reaction ranges from praises for a new beginning in Muslim-American relations to skepticism about setting words to action.

From the Gaza Strip to Kabul to Washington, D.C., the world held its breath as President Obama made his historic speech to the Muslim world. "I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world," he said.

The most anticipated topic was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On this issue, Mr. Obama was clear. "The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides through two states where Israelis and Palestians live in peace and security," he said.

The speech drew mixed reactions from around the world.

In Jerusalem, Israel's government expressed optimism, even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state. "Israel shares the hope expressed by President Obama that his efforts will indeed lead to a new period of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. a period where Israel will be recognized as a Jewish state and that we can live without fear of violence and terrorism," said government spokesman Mark Regev.

Saeb Erekat, a chief advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said he is optimistic that this American president will be friendly towards his people. "Now I hope that in the next few months, President Obama will lay a real plan with time lines, monitors and mechanisms to implement and translate the vision of two states to a realistic political track," he said.

But Mahmoud Rahahi, an official of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, criticized the speech. "President Obama asked Hamas to stop the rockets, at the same moment, he did not speak of anything about 1,500 Palestinians killed in the last invasion of Israel in Gaza," he said.

On the occupied West Bank, Israeli settler Aliza Herbst said Mr. Obama's speech will not bring peace. "I think we have to face, the Israelis in general will have to face a very very difficult situation in the international community. It has been difficult. I think as a result of Obama it will be more difficult," she said.

But Wadir Safi, a professor at Kabul University, said, the speech held promise. He appeared in a special report by the VOA. "I have not heard until now from none of the American presidents so much clear and knowledgeable speech about Islam," he said.

In the West, the European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana also praised the speech. "Everybody is positively impressed. And I think that the climate that the speech has created is very constructive and positive. Now what we cannot do is fail," he said.

In Washington DC, the Council on American Islamic Relations, held a gathering to watch Mr. Obama's speech. The group had been critical of Bush administration policies. One member of the organizaton, Khadija Athman, was upbeat. "I think I have never been more proud of our president right now," she said.

Observers around the world seem to agree that Mr. Obama's speech will have little impact if it is not followed by action.