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Arab Reaction Overwhelmingly Positive to Obama Nobel Prize

By Edward Yeranian
09 October 2009

Initial reaction in the Arab world - among leaders and the public at large - has been overwhelmingly positive to the news that President Obama is the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

In Cairo, many were startled by the development, with some commenting that Mr. Obama had only been in office for under a year, and that it was "unusual for such a young president" to win the peace prize.

Former Egyptian Foreign Minister and Arab League Secretary-General Esmet Abdel Meguid, who was involved in Middle East peace talks for many years, said that Mr. Obama's award appears to be a positive development for peace in the region.

"I want to say that we feel that Obama has achieved a lot for his country and for the world and he deserves what has been granted to him. It is a positive move that would lead to more understanding and relations between the United States and other countries, including Egypt. So, I feel that this is a good occasion to build on that for the future," he said.

In Lebanon, which has known long periods of instability in recent years, Paul Haidostian, who is the president of Haigazian University, believes that Mr. Obama's Nobel is a step in the right direction and is a positive omen for the future.

"I was initially surprised by the news, because I usually expect older people, with longer experience in the peace process, but I took President Obama's winning of the prize as a promise for the future, as much as it is for his approach in the past. So, I guess it hits the right tone in that it is a promise that US policy in the Middle East and in the peace process, President Obama will try to do his best in the future," said Haidostian.

In nearby Saudi Arabia, which is an important player as well as a key moral force in the Arab and Islamic world, there appeared to be a quiet sense of enjoyment over the news.

Jamal Khashoggi, who is the editor and publisher of the influential Saudi daily Al-Watan noted that he believes Mr. Obama won the Peace prize for his overtures to the Arab and Islamic world, and especially for his June address at Cairo University.

" It is a good sign and it is very quick for a president to receive the Nobel Prize even though he didn't finish a whole year in his term," said Khashoggi. "But, his speech in Cairo was a very good blueprint for peace. He did not only address Israeli's interests as American presidents usually do, he addressed also Palestinians concerns and rights. Not only Palestinians … he even talked to Hamas. That was really good. I was there in Cairo and I was very much impressed. It is a very good step. I just hope that Hamas and others in the Palestinian camp will realize that."

The popular, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV broke into its regular news programming to make the announcement that President Obama had won the prize, noting that the President had taken "many extraordinary steps in trying to achieve a rapprochement with the Arab and Islamic world."

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