Obama urges new beginning for U.S., Muslims

(AP) - Quoting from the Quran for emphasis, PresidentBarack Obama called for a "new beginning between the United Statesand Muslims" Thursday and said together, they could confrontviolent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless searchfor peace in the Middle East.
"This cycle of suspicion and discord must end," Obama said ina widely anticipated speech in one of the world's largest Muslimcountries, an address designed to reframe relations after theterrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
The White House said Obama's speech contained no new policyproposals on the Middle East. He said American ties with Israel areunbreakable, yet issued a firm, evenhanded call to the Jewish stateand Palestinians alike to live up to their internationalobligations.
In a gesture to the Islamic world, Obama conceded at thebeginning of his remarks that tension "has been fed by colonialismthat denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a ColdWar in which Muslim-majority countries were often treated asproxies without regard to their own aspirations."
"And I consider it part of my responsibility as president ofthe United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islamwherever they appear," said the president, who recalled hearingprayer calls of "azaan" at dawn and dusk while living inIndonesia as a boy.
At the same time, he said the same principle must apply inreverse. "Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, Americais not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire."
Obama's remarks drew a positive response from corners of theworld not given to complimenting the United States.
"There is a change between the speech of President Obama andprevious speeches made by George Bush," said Fawzi Barhoum, aHamas spokesman in Gaza. But he complained that Obama did notspecifically note the suffering in Gaza following the three-weekIsraeli incursion earlier this year and did not apologize for U.S.military attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Iran, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a cleric who was vice presidentunder reformist President Mohammad Khatami, called the speech"compensation to hostile environment which was created duringPresident Bush."
"This can be an initial step for removing misconceptionsbetween world of Islam and the West," he said.
Obama spoke at Cairo University after meeting with EgyptianPresident Hosni Mubarak on the second stop of a four-nation trip tothe Middle East and Europe.