Will this really trigger a change, an impact in the US, the whole world?


WASHINGTONPresident Barack Obama will journey to the centre of Arab-Muslim civilisation this week to begin the daunting task of draining deep mistrust of the United States felt across the Islamic world.

In Egypt on Thursday, Mr Obama will make a personal address to the world's Muslims, harnessing his own ancestral ties to Islam and globalising his message of change in a speech rich in trademark political ambition.

His trip comes as some observers scent a moment of opportunity amid the perpetual Middle East crisis.

But others see only peril, with a showdown gathering pace between Washington and Israel over Jewish settlements and no end in sight to Iran's nuclear drive.

This trip's first stop, on Wednesday, will be Saudi Arabia, for talks with King Abdullah, seeking Arab support for US peace efforts.

But the highlight will be the speech at the University of Cairo, co-hosted by Al-Azhar University, an ancient hub of Islamic scholarship.

Mr Obama may try to use the charismatic rhetoric which helped make him president as a balm for region-wide mistrust of the US.

"I want to use the occasion to deliver a broader message about how the United States can change for the better its relationship with the Muslim world," he said last week.

The speech will also be a promise kept — way back in the presidential campaign Mr Obama pledged to speak before a major Islamic forum.

In Egypt, he will make references to the Islamic faith of some of his paternal family in Kenya, time spent in Indonesia as a young boy and contacts with Muslim communities in Illinois.

"The President himself experienced Islam on three continents before he was able to visit, really, the heart of the Islamic world," said foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough.

Some analysts predict though Mr Obama may fall short. "There's nothing Barack Obama could say to Muslims on June 4 that will make the US popular and he shouldn't try," said Mr Jon Alterman, of the Center of Strategic and International Studies.

"America's underlying interests are simply not allied with the policies that many Muslims around the world would like to see the US pursue."

The US image in the Muslim world has been stained by the invasion of Iraq, stalled Palestinian hopes for statehood and Bush administration acquiescence in Israel's offensives in Lebanon and Gaza. AFP

From TODAYonline.com, World news – Monday, 01-Jun-2009; see the source article here.

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