U.S. President Barack Obama says "the moment is ripe"
for Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a lasting peace, but he stressed that
all parties in the region must play a role in the process.
In an interview late Monday with Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television, Mr. Obama said both sides would have to decide for themselves what is best for them. But the new president says the Israelis and Palestinians must realize the current situation will not result in "prosperity and security" for their people.
Speaks Directly to Muslim World
In his first formal interview - made directly to the Muslim world - the American leader said it is not possible to think of the Middle East without looking at the region as a whole, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said they are interrelated.
Mr. Obama's interview with the Arabic language TV network came hours after his new special Middle East envoy, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, departed on his his first official trip to the region.
The president says he told Mitchell to use the trip to begin listening to all parties concerned, saying that all too often the U.S. starts the process by "dictating" the terms of the negotiations.
Mr. Obama says he is following through on a campaign pledge to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the start of his administration, signaling a break with his predecessor, former President George W. Bush. He also says he plans to follow through on a promise to address the Muslim world from a Muslim capital.
Obama: 'Not Your Enemy'
During the interview, Mr. Obama stressed that the United States is not an enemy of the Muslim world, and is ready to begin a new partnership "based on mutual respect and mutual interest."
He denounced the verbal attacks launched against him by the al-Qaida terrorist network, saying it shows their ideas are "bankrupt."
Mr. Obama said the U.S. must be willing to engage in diplomacy with Iran, repeating the pledge he made in his inaugural address to extend a hand to the Islamic nation if it is "willing to unclench its fist."
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.