EGYPT: State-owned media hail Obama's upcoming visit
The Egyptian press on Sunday celebrated President Barack Obama’s decision to deliver his address to the Muslim world from Egypt, hailing the move as an American acknowledgment of this nation's regional clout.
“The selection of Cairo stresses the fact that . . . Egypt is the heart of both the Arab and Muslim worlds and is the voice of reason and wisdom that helped the region overcome crises," wrote Osama Saraya, editor in chief of the semi-official Ahram daily. "Egypt is still with its Arabism and Islamic thought the most influential force. Its flag is still the most capable of bringing all Arabs and Muslims together.”
"This is a continuing effort of the president to engage the Muslim world," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. "The president has high hopes for a stronger relationship." Obama is expected to deliver his address on June 4. Some Muslim clerics have reportedly called upon the president to speak at al-Azhar, the oldest and most prestigious Sunni institution in the Muslim world.
In recent years, Egypt's political stature has been challenged by rising regional powers, including Iran and Turkey. For many Arab commentators, Egyptian diplomacy has waned significantly in the Middle East due to its strong alliance with Western powers at the expense of Arab interests.
“Obama’s anticipated address proves that Washington wants to open a new page with Arabs and Muslims and starts with the biggest country that holds the keys of the Palestinian question and has bridges with all factions as well as Israel,” wrote Mohamed Ali Ibrahim in the government-owned al-Gomhoreyya newspaper.
Egyptian-American relations were periodically strained under the Bush administration, which pressured Cairo to stop jailing dissidents and expand political freedoms. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak responded to such advances by canceling his routine annual visits to Washington. Yet the rise of the new administration has encouraged him to engage the White House. Mubarak is set to visit the U.S. after a five-year-long boycott this month.
Supporters of Mubarak’s regime contended that the selection of Cairo reflects an American determination to solve the Palestinian question. “This comes in the context of the clear concern of the new American administration with the question of instating peace in the Middle East and its announced determination to put an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict which stands as the main cause behind all problems in the region and the deterioration of Arab and Muslim faith in the US as an impartial mediator…” wrote Mohamed Barakat in al-Akhbar daily.
—Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo
Photo: Obama in the front and a Cairo mosque in the background (Credit: ABC photo illustration)