Obama speech to offer personal commitment to Muslims

  • US President Barack Obama speaks after attending a hurricane preparedness meeting May 29, 2009 at Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN)

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama will offer a "personal commitment" to bridge US differences with Muslims in his long-awaited speech to the Islamic world next week in Egypt, aides said.

But White House advisors said Friday that Obama would not shy away from addressing "tough issues" in the speech on Thursday at the University of Cairo which will be co-hosted by Al-Azhar University, an ancient center of Islam and learning.

"The speech will outline his personal commitment to engagement, based upon mutual interests and mutual respect," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

"He will discuss how the United States and Muslim communities around the world can bridge some of the differences that have divided them.

"He will review particular issues of concern, such as violent extremism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and he will discuss new areas for partnership going forward that serve the mutual interests of our people."

Obama foreign policy advisor Mark Lippert added that the address, which makes good on an Obama campaign promise, would emulate some other speeches by the president which have touched on difficult issues.

"He doesn't hesitate to take on the tough issues in his speech, just harkening back to his Senate career when he delivered a very, very powerful message on corruption in Kenya," Lippert said.

"He continually raises these issues here with leaders when they come through both in private and through public statements, as well. You have a President who's not afraid to engage on very tough, tough issues."

Asked whether Obama would meet with Egyptian political dissidents during his visit, aides said that people from across the political spectrum would be invited to the speech.

Obama, who lived for several years as a child in mainly Muslim Indonesia and traces part of his ancestry to a Muslim family in Kenya, will open his trip next Wednesday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, holding talks on Middle East peace, Iran, terrorism and other issues with King Abdullah.

The next day, his visit to Cairo will include the speech and talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who cancelled a visit to Washington this week because of the death of a grandson.

Obama then heads to Germany, where he will stay in the former East German city of Dresden, hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and visit the former Nazi death camp at Buchenwald.

He will also visit US troops wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq and the US medical center at Landstuhl.

Obama's last stop will be in France on Saturday, where he will take part in 65th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day allied landings in Normandy, alongside French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (AFP)