27 Jan 2009

We're not your enemies, Obama tells Muslims

9:50 pm on 27 January 2009

In his first formal television interview since his inauguration, America's new President has told the people of the Muslim world that Americans are not their enemies.

Barack Obama told the Al Arabia network that the United States sometimes made mistakes and had not been perfect in its dealings.

The interview was aired as Mr Obama dispatched his Middle East envoy George Mitchell to the region, telling him to vigorously seek genuine progress during his visit to Israel, the West Bank, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The President says he hopes that Mr Mitchell's trip can help solidify the fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

But Mr Obama, who has promised to directly address Middle East questions at the start of his presidency, rather than waiting for years like his predecessor, warned against expectations of quick results.

"I want to make sure that expectations are not raised so that we think that this is going to be resolved in a few months," he told the Dubai-based satellite TV channel.

"But if we start the steady progress on these issues, I'm absolutely confident that the United States, working in tandem with the European Union, with Russia, with all the Arab States in the region - I'm absolutely certain that we can make significant progress."