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Politics & press news – – Embassy 17 – June 2009

Muslim Ambassadors praise Obama

Barack Obama’s landmark speech to the Muslim world in Cairo has been warmly received by Muslim heads of mission in London, but some remain sceptical about the American president’s ability to turn his words into deeds.

In a snap poll conducted by Embassy, the Egyptian Ambassador Hatem Seif el Nasr was effusive in his praise, calling the speech “phenomenal” and saying Obama had set the right tone to open up a new chapter in relations between the US and the Muslim World.

The spokesman for the Syrian Embassy Jihad Makdissi was more guarded in his response, saying the speech was “definitely a step in the right direction to rectify the accumulated mistakes of the previous administration.”

He said President Obama had managed to please “almost all parties in the Middle East” by his conciliatory tone. But he added: “I wished he had elaborated more on specific mechanisms to implement his vision of conciliation and to achieve the long awaited peace in our region.”

A Southeast Asian high commissioner said Obama’s speech would have appealed to “the millions of moderate Muslims” in his region whose backing the President would need to achieve a lasting friendship with the Muslim world.

With four female ambassadors from the region, including Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco, Obama’s comments on the rights of women were very well received by diplomats across the board.

The State Department made use of advanced communications technology to ensure the speech was disseminated widely. A transcript of the speech was translated in 13 languages, while to countries with predominantly Muslim populations, the US government offered free text messages about the speech in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and English. Participants could send text messages back to the State Department with reaction.

In London over 100 guests including journalists, Muslim-focused community organisations and students visited the US Embassy as guests to watch the speech in the auditorium, and participate in a discussion after the speech.

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