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Obama's Speech to Muslims to be Part of Lengthy Effort

By Michael Bowman
Washington
02 June 2009

The White House said President Barack Obama's upcoming speech in Cairo is part of a concerted effort to improve U.S. relations with the Muslim world, but will not magically accomplish that goal by itself.

With anticipation and chatter surrounding President Obama's Cairo address seemingly building by the day, the White House sought to temper expectations about what the speech can - and cannot - accomplish. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

"This is about resetting our relationship with the Muslim world. We do not expect that everything will change after one speech. It will take a sustained effort, and that is what the president is in for," he said.

Gibbs spoke hours before the president's scheduled departure for Saudi Arabia, the first stop on a trip that will take Mr. Obama to Egypt, Germany and France. Thursday, the president addresses the global Muslim community from Cairo University.

The press secretary said that, if a single speech could "cure" America's relationship with the Muslim world, it would have been delivered before June.

"We did not get where we are overnight, and it [U.S.-Muslim relations] is not going to get solved overnight. The president believes, using his time and resources on an issue as important as this will pay dividends," he said.

Gibbs added that President Obama wants Muslims to hear America's message: that the United States and the Muslim world share many common hopes and dreams - and that, working together, those hopes and dreams can be fulfilled.

Numerous experts on the Middle East and the greater Muslim world say Mr. Obama's target audience will be more impressed by deeds than words, especially regarding the ever-present Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In advance of his trip, Mr. Obama has met with several Arab and Israeli leaders, but the White House has given no indication that the president will unveil dramatic new proposals in his Cairo speech.



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