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EGYPT: Obama's speech in Cairo draws world reaction

June 4, 2009 |  1:29 pm

Saeb Erakat, chief negotiator for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority:

“This was a very important speech, in which President Obama reinforced the message that ending the occupation and establishing a viable and independent Palestinian state was in the mutual interest of Palestinians, Israelis and indeed the entire world. Progress towards peace hinges on both parties implementing their obligations under existing agreements....

“President Obama also expressed the need to address the daily injustices that Palestinians face. This includes the dislocation, dispossession and insecurity that millions of Palestinian refugees face, the intolerable realities of Israel’s occupation, especially in Gaza, as well as the importance of Jerusalem to all faiths and peoples, including Palestinian Christians and Muslims.”

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, responding to Obama administration shifts in attitude in a speech before the president:

"On the one hand, in Iraq terrorist agents are supported by you,” he said, in an apparent reference to the Mujahedin Khalq Organization, an Iranian opposition group based in Iraq. “On the other hand, you chant slogans of fighting terrorism. All of these actions have made nations in the region become hateful for them.… If the new president of America wants change of the face, America should change this behavior. Words and talk will not result in change. Muslim nations know that when the American government changes in deeds, they [Muslims] will believe its words."


He denied that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons, a charge frequently made by the Obama administration and hinted at during the president’s speech. "We want to use nuclear energy in a peaceful way,” he told thousands gathered at Khomeini’s tomb in south Tehran. “However, the West and America say that Iranian nation is seeking to make a nuclear bomb. Why are they telling lies? ... We announced that according to the Islamic principle, the use of nuclear weapons is forbidden. The keeping of nuclear weapons is dangerous. We are not seeking to have it. We do not want this.”

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Evans Mensah, radio presenter in Ghana:

"This speech was not popularized in Ghana. I didn't even hear it on the midday news. Our station is the only station that would be interested, and we didn't do anything on it."

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U.S. Christian leaders news release:

A broad and diverse group of national Christian leaders today sent a letter to President Obama on the heels of his historic speech in Cairo. 
 
The message of support expressed gratitude for President Obama’s efforts at reaching out to the Muslim world and for making Israeli-Palestinian peace a top priority of his administration.  But it also expressed grave concern over the “deteriorating situation in the holy land” and urged the Obama administration to make real and concrete progress in achieving a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
 
Bishop Howard Hubbard, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, “I am deeply inspired by the president’s effort to bridge divides of culture and faith and to reach out directly to the people of the Middle East.  Confrontation only breeds radicalism.  For this effort at rapprochement to succeed, however, we need to see real progress on the ground towards peace with justice in the holy land.”
 
Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church, said, “For too long the holy land has been viewed as a clash of religions and cultures, but religion must be part of any durable solution.  We’re saying today that we’re prepared to put our faith and resources behind that most important goal of bringing a just peace to Israelis and Palestinians -- Jew, Christians and Muslim alike.”
 
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said, “I welcome President Obama’s strong commitment to pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace.  His belief that peace in the holy land is possible and his firm statements holding both Israel and the Palestinians to their obligations are heartening.  Indeed, urgent efforts are now needed to preserve the two-state solution.  We are ready to help support bold action by his administration to finally achieve the peace of Jerusalem.” 
 
The letter emphasizes the urgency of the current moment -- that this may be the last chance for a viable two-state solution to the holy land’s conflict, which the signatories view as critical to stabilizing the region and bringing justice to both Israelis and Palestinians.
 
Signatories are national leaders stretching from religious liberals to conservatives, including national leaders who have never made public statements on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and some who are confidants of the president. Catholic Bishops and Cardinals, Evangelicals, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox and historic African American leaders representing millions of Americans joined this ad-hoc initiative.

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