4 Jun 2009

Obama prepares speech to Arabs, Israelis

11:24 am on 4 June 2009

US President Barack Obama will urge Arabs and Israelis to say publicly what they acknowledge in private about Middle East peace moves and Iran, when he speaks to the Muslim world on Thursday.

Mr Obama said he sought the advice of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia before the speech, to be delivered in Egypt.

The president told the New York Times a key part of his message would be: "Stop saying one thing behind closed doors and saying something else publicly."

"There are a lot of Arab countries more concerned about Iran developing a nuclear weapon than the 'threat' from Israel, but won't admit it," Mr Obama told the paper.

The visit and scheduled speech drew condemnation from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who said in a taped message aired by Al Jazeera television that the US leader had planted seeds for "revenge and hatred" towards the United States in the Muslim world.

Message to Israelis

Mr Obama will say in his speech that many Israelis "recognise that their current path is unsustainable, and they need to make some tough choices on settlements to achieve a two-state solution -- that is in their long-term interest -- but not enough folks are willing to recognise that publicly."

Mr Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are at odds over a push by Obama for Israel to halt Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank.

About half a million Jews live in settlements among nearly three million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem.