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USA Obama: U.S. Will Help New Governments Retrieve Assets

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
May 19, 2011

Obama: U.S. will help new governments retrieve assets

By Matt Spetalnick, Reuters May 19, 2011 10:02 AM


U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the State Department in Washington
on Thursday about U.S. policy regarding the Middle East and North Africa.
Photograph by: Mark Wilson, Getty Images

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. President Barack Obama announced Thursday a new program of economic aid starting with Egypt and Tunisia, including helping new governments recover assets lost to corruption.

"We will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen," he said in a major speech on the Middle East and North Africa.

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday invoked the killing of Osama bin Laden as a chance to recast relations with the Arab world and said the top U.S. priority was to promote democratic change across the region.

Obama, in his much-anticipated "Arab spring" speech, also ratcheted up pressure on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, saying for the first time that he must stop a crackdown on protests and lead a democratic transition "or get out of the way."

He hailed popular unrest sweeping the Middle East as a "historic opportunity" and said the U.S. future was bound to that of the region now caught up in unprecedented upheaval.

"The people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow," Obama told an audience of U.S. and foreign diplomats at the State Department in Washington.

His bid to reset ties with the Arab world also faced skepticism over what many have perceived as a hesitant and uneven response to the region's uprisings that threaten both U.S. friends and foes.

Struggling to regain the initiative in a week of intense Middle East diplomacy, Obama was seizing an opportunity to reach out to the Arab world in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEAL commandos.

"We have dealt al-Qaida a huge blow by killing its leader," Obama said. "Bin Laden was not a martyr, he was a mass murderer . . . Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents but even before his death al-Qaida was losing its struggle for relevance."

Seeking to back democratic reform with economic incentives, Obama planned to announced billions of dollars in aid for Egypt and Tunisia to bolster their political transitions after revolts toppled autocratic leaders.

Obama's speech was his first major attempt to put the anti-government protests that have swept the Middle East in the context of U.S. national interests.

He has scrambled to keep pace with still-unfolding events that have ousted long-time leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, threatened those in Yemen and Bahrain and engulfed Libya in civil war where the United States and other powers unleashed a bombing campaign.

© Copyright (c) Reuters

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Obama: Palestinian state based on 1967 borders

AFP - May 19, 2011

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama declared Thursday that the borders of Israel and a Palestinian state must be based on 1967 lines, likely setting up a new clash with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a long-awaited survey of the "Arab spring" of revolts, Obama compared "shouts of human dignity" across the region to America's birth pangs and civil rights struggles, and said the uprisings showed repression would not work.

But Obama did not radically adjust U.S. policy approaches to the uprisings which erupted in Tunisia and raged through Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain among other states, in a speech watched around the world.

His comments on the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process will likely draw most attention, one day before the president meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office.

Obama warned Palestinians that Israel had a right to defend itself and said that the unity deal between Fatah and the radical Islamist Hamas movement posed "profound and legitimate questions" for Israel.

"How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?" Obama said.

He also bluntly told Palestinians that their effort, following the collapse of U.S.-brokered direct talks with Israel last year, to try to win recognition at the UN General Assembly in September would fail.

"Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state," Obama said.

But the president also made clear he expected significant concessions in any revived peace process from Israel.

"The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states," Obama said in the speech at the State Department.

Netanyahu has vigorously opposed to a formula that would see Israel withdraw to the borders in place before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Former U.S. congressman Robert Wexler, president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace in Washington, told AFP that Obama's declaration amounted to a "moment of truth" for Israel and the Palestinians.

He said Obama had become the first U.S. president to state that the conflict should be ended "with Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and that the 1967 lines — with agreed territorial swaps — will be the basis of the resolution."

Obama also made clear he would support however another Netanyahu red line — the need for the future Palestinian state to be "non-militarized."

The U.S. president was seeking to convince Americans and the people of the Middle East and North Africa that he had a coherent policy towards the Arab Spring.

He called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to lead a transition or "leave," further stiffening the U.S. line a day after slapping new sanctions on the leadership over a fierce crackdown on demonstrations.

Obama demanded a real dialogue between the government and opposition forces in Bahrain, in a showdown that has forced the United States to chose between a key military ally and its support for universal principles.

And the president said that Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh should follow up on his vows to cede power, amid new signs the long time leader was seeking to once again dig in.

In an in-depth survey over five months of revolt stretching from Tunisia to Egypt, Obama said that the uprisings had shown that repression by autocratic leaders could not stifle demands for individual freedoms.

"Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region and through the moral force of non-violence," people have achieved more in six months than terrorists have in decades, Obama said.

"It will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way there will be good days and there will be bad days," Obama said, adding that there would be in some cases, "fierce contests for power."

Obama said that the revolts showed the region must make a choice "between hate and hope, between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future."

Less than three weeks after America hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden, Obama also argued that the Arab revolts proved that al-Qaida was losing its struggle for relevance and that its extremist ideology was a "dead end."

Seeking to encourage political change, the president also unveiled a program to offer two billion dollars of debt relief and financing for Egypt and Tunisia, modeled on financial support which underpinned the evolution of post-Soviet eastern Europe.

Specifically, the plan will seek to reorient the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which helped rebuild market economies in post-communist Europe, to play a similar role in the Middle East.

The United States will also work with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank to unlock more funding and financing guarantees to encourage democratic reform in the Arab world, officials said.

The rationale of Obama's Arab plan appears to be an attempt to tackle the economic deprivation and miserable prospects of vast swathes of Arab population, which, along with repression of basic rights, triggered a wildfire of protests.

© Copyright (c) AFP




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