Obama Still Trying to Make Muslim Friends

Wednesday, 11 May 2011 01:07 PM

By Andra Varin

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President Barack Obama is planning a speech designed to reach out to Muslims around the world, asking them to turn away from Islamic militancy following the death of Osama bin Laden, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

U.S. officials said the speech could come as early as next week, before the president leaves on a trip to Europe.

In the speech, Obama is expected to argue that bin Laden’s death, and the wave of “Arab Spring” anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, show that al-Qaida does not represent Muslims.

“It's an interesting coincidence of timing—that he is killed at the same time that you have a model emerging in the region of change that is completely the opposite of bin Laden's model," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser at the White House, told the Journal.

“Mr. Obama, who has made outreach to the Muslim world a cornerstone of his presidency, plans to describe the Islamic world as at a crossroads, said U.S. officials, making the case that bin Laden represented a failed approach of the past while populist movements brewing in the Middle East and North Africa represent the future,” the paper said.

Popular unrest has ousted the longtime rulers of Egypt and Tunisia, and protests have been raging in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain. In Libya, the regime’s brutal crackdown on rebels has resulted in civil war.

It was not clear whether Obama planned to make any proposals for reviving the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The new accord between the Fatah faction, which controls the West Bank, and the militant Hamas organization, which rules the Gaza Strip, make a return to the peace talks seem less likely. Israel has said it will not negotiate with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to visit Washington next week for talks with the White House. Netanyahu is also expected to deliver an address to the U.S. Congress.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II is also expected to meet with Obama at the White House on May 17.

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