The Power Of SMS

Pakatan Selangor: Khalid And Team Gets 64% Approval Rating

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on July 16, 2009


By SK English News

Selangor voters have given Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and his team a clear thumbs-up with a 64 percent approval rating.

According to the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research, 69 percent of Chinese and Indian respondents were happy with the Pakatan Rakyat state government, while amongst the Malays the rate was 59 percent.

Involving 1,360 telephone interviews conducted between June 5 to 15, the poll also found that 60 percent of the respondents believed the state was heading in the right direction, while 58 percent were satisfied with the government’s management of the economy.

Some 63 percent also expressed satisfaction with Khalid’s performance against just 19 percent which disapproved.

The Pakatan swept to power in Selangor in the 2008 general election, defeating the Umno-BN for the first time in the country’s most industrialised state.

Meanwhile, Khalid’s office attributed the good ratings to the “state’s welfare programmes, transparent and efficient administration and reduction of corruption”.

The survey, which it commissioned, also identified several areas of weakness, including a lack of communication avenues, lack of public awareness for programmes it was implementing and called for reduction of red tape and increase in provision of services.


Malaysians are the real agents of change — The Malaysian Insider

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 29, 2009


Too much support too quickly leads to arrogance, inertia and apathy.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 — Malaysians should take a bow. If the administration of Datuk Seri Najib Razak is making some reform noises — merit-based national scholarships, talk of finally abandoning quotas — it is because of the political changes effected on March 8, 2008.

Do not for a minute think that the prime minister would even bother to tweak the system if the status quo had remained.

The likes of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein and Khairy Jamaluddin are not agents of change and never will be. It is Malaysians who are the agents of change.

And the message is that Umno and Barisan Nasional only becomes less arrogant when their political survival is being questioned.

Malaysians should not be so ready to throw their support behind BN yet. Remember the lessons gleaned from being under the administration of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Too much support too quickly leads to arrogance, inertia and apathy.

If any political party becomes too dominant anywhere in the world, chances are corruption, abuse of power and the tendency to take for granted the needs of the voters will set in.

Najib is expected to make some announcements this week on more liberalisations of the economy. And while these are probably steps in the right direction if Malaysia is to become more competitive, it is also coming about because the country has no choice.

Whether it is too little too late, remains to be seen. But really, Malaysia has little choice but to open up the economy, in the face of competition from around the region and pressure from trading partners.

The bloody nose inflicted on BN last year also left the ruling coalition with little choice but to respond to an unhappy electorate. That it took more than a year and a change of leadership to finally see some reform noises being made speaks volumes of the inertia that BN suffers from.

So far the signals also appear to be mixed.

The Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia continues to stoke racial sentiments. Umno’s own leaders continue to speak of what can only be described as outdated ideas about racial identity.

Instead of being progressive, Umno leaders continue to talk about the need for “protection.”

To his credit, Najib has refrained from making racially-sensitive remarks. He has been playing the statesman role, keeping himself above it all. But the prime minister will need to get his hands dirty, roll up his sleeves and make the change in his own party before he can talk about a 1 Malaysia.

And ordinary Malaysians should now also realise how effective the power of the vote is in their hands.

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Anwar in damage control mode over PAS split

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 18, 2009


By Syed Jaymal Zahiid

parliamentKUALA LUMPUR, June 17 – PKR’s de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has moved to contain the fallout over cracks in the PAS leadership, denying his party’s Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partner was split over Umno’s offer of talks with the Islamist party.

Anwar told reporters in Parliament today that he did not believe that PAS was divided, claiming that the matter could be resolved if its spiritual leader, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and his pro-unity government president, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, talk things over.

In an unprecedented outburst today, Nik Aziz said his party’s deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa, should join Umno if he persisted in wanting talks with Umno.

But Anwar believes Nik Aziz, representing the voice of PAS’ grassroots, had only made the statement out of frustration.

“And I think Nik Aziz should talk to his leaders on this matter and I believe it can be resolved,” he said.

He also revealed that the unity government talks was raised by PAS leaders during a PR meeting last Sunday and said that the party had maintained its stand that it has no intention of joining Umno but instead only wanted to engage them on issues of national interests.

Anwar also said that Hadi reiterated his commitment to the PR alliance.

But the term “engagement” instead of the formation of a coalition with Umno, was only adopted recently by both Hadi and Nasharuddin in the aftermath of heavy attacks from party grassroots and other PR leaders on the matter.

Hadi claimed PAS would only engage Umno on specific issues like reforming the Elections Commission and the judiciary.

Nik Aziz’s remarks came just after PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali pledged the party’s commitment to Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Mustafa said this morning that PAS would only have talks to form a unity government if the negotiations included its PR partners, in a statement designed to assuage the growing sense of betrayal being felt by DAP and PKR.

Umno leaders have in recent weeks aggressively pushed the idea of opening talks with PAS, and this has opened up a rift between the PR partners and put the federal opposition alliance on the back-foot for the first time since last year’s general election.

Nasharuddin had been at the forefront of secret talks last year between Umno and PAS soon after the general election. But those talks did not result in any pact with the BN, and PAS decided instead to commit itself to PR.

But Nasharuddin and Hadi have grown weary of Anwar’s prominence and are concerned that PAS may be sidelined in a PR government led by the former deputy prime minister. Umno has taken full advantage of the turn of events.

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Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 17, 2009


Written by: Dr Agoes Salim, an economist and first secretary-general of the National Unity Ministry. He is also the former chairman of Bank Pertanian. He was on the public service secretariat of the National Operations Council following the riots and helped draw up both the Rukun Negara and the NEP. Edited by The Mighty Pen website for this website’s use.

I think we are farther apart now than we were in 1969. But you have to remember that I grew up going to an English school, to a university where there were people of all races. At that time, although we did think in terms of race, it wasn’t in the way people do now. We felt that we were Malayans. We socialised much better than we do now. Bahasa Malaysia can be a unifying factor. But it can be a factor separating people, too. As Sukarno would say, “The important thing is the jiwa.”

You don’t have to have a common language, if you have the same jiwa (heart, spirit, passion, image devotion). This is what we don’t have right now.

In 1956, the historical society of Universiti Malaya went to India. There were lots of Indians in the group, but they didn’t think of themselves as Indians, they thought of themselves as Malayans. That’s the jiwa.

But later on, because of certain reactions, suddenly people stayed away from this jiwa — they don’t feel as though they are fully Malaysians. They are made to feel that way.

When I was in the service, there were lots of non-Malays in the civil service, holding good positions. But do you see them now? If you go to the universities, where are the non-Malay professors?


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Shots fired at huge Iran protest

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 16, 2009




Shots have been fired during a massive rally in Iran against last week’s presidential election results, with reports saying one person was killed.

Hundreds of thousands rallied to support candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, but a group of them was fired on from a militia base they had surrounded.

Mr Mousavi has lodged a legal appeal against the result but says he is not optimistic it will succeed.

US President Barack Obama has said he is “deeply troubled” by the violence.

On Monday evening, in his first public comments since the election results, he said that free speech and the democratic process must be respected in Iran


The BBC’s Jon Leyne, in Tehran, says Monday’s rally was the biggest demonstration in the Islamic republic’s 30-year history and described it as a “political earthquake”.

Mr Mousavi says the vote was fixed – a claim President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies.


Jon Leyne
Jon Leyne
Reporting from Tehran
It was an incredible sight. A huge crowd, hundreds of thousands of people maybe even millions of people there in defiance of open threats from the government that they should not assemble.

The security forces were staying well away – we were even able to film and usually the secret police come in straight away and stop you.

But the crowds were so enormous they were stepping back.

The government had outlawed any protest following two days of unrest, with the interior ministry warning that “any disrupter of public security would be dealt with according to the law”.

Despite this, correspondents said riot police had been watching the rally during the afternoon and had seemed to be taking no action.

The first indications of trouble came at about 2045 local time (1615 GMT), when the protesters were beginning to disperse from Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square shots.

“There has been sporadic shooting out there… I can see people running here,” Reuters quoted a reporter from Iran’s Press TV as saying.

“A number of people who are armed, I don’t know exactly who they are, but they have started to fire on people causing havoc in Azadi Square.”

A photographer at the scene told news agencies that security forces had killed one protester and seriously wounded several others. A man is said to have been arrested over the shooting.


At work today, they weren’t letting people leave the office to attend Mousavi’s demonstration
Tehran civil servant

He said the shooting began when the crowd attacked a compound used by a religious militia linked to the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard.

Other sources told the BBC as many as six people might have died in the incident.

The AFP news agency reported that police fired tear gas and groups of protesters set motorbikes alight.

A BBC correspondent said there had also been gunfire in the north of the city – traditionally an anti-government stronghold – and that the security forces appeared to be hunting down protesters.

There was a large police presence on major streets of the city on Monday night, but evidence of few ordinary people, our correspondent added.

Ayatollah’s intervention

Earlier, the demonstrators had gathered in Tehran’s Enghelab (Revolution) Square, chanting pro-Mousavi slogans, before marching to Azadi Square.

“Mousavi we support you. We will die, but retrieve our votes,” they shouted, many wearing the green of Mousavi’s election campaign.


Fire on the streets of Tehran as mass protests continue

And Mr Mousavi eventually appeared, addressing the crowd from the roof of his car.

“The vote of the people is more important than Mousavi or any other person,” he told his supporters.

His wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a high-profile supporter of her husband’s campaign, later said they would keep up their protests. “We will stand until the end,” she told the AFP.

The renewed protests come after Mr Mousavi and fellow defeated candidate Mohsen Rezai filed official complaints against the election result with the Guardian Council – the country’s powerful clerical group.


More than 100 opposition figures arrested, including the brother of ex-reformist President Khatami
Local and international phone and text message services interrupted
Social networking and newspaper websites blocked
“Heavy electronic jamming” from inside Iran disrupts BBC Persian TV service
International journalists arrested and asked to leave
Iranian newspapers do not carry reports of the violence
Source: Various reports

State television reported that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has upheld the election result, urged the Guardian Council to “precisely consider” the complaints.

The 12-member council is due to meet Mr Mousavi and Mr Rezai on Tuesday.

Its head said the decision would be taken soon.

“I hope it will not take long that the noble people will see that the question has been examined in the best way and we will give the result to the people,” Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told state television on Monday.

But the Iranian leadership has put itself in an impossible position, our Tehran correspondent says.

He says that Ayatollah Khamenei has given his complete endorsement to the election result and to President Ahmadinejad, and by doing so he has put at risk the very foundations of the Islamic republic.

And Mr Mousavi’s website quoted him as telling crowds on Monday that he was “not very optimistic” about the judgment of the Guardian Council.

“Many of its members during the election were not impartial and supported the government candidate,” Mr Mousavi said.

Dozens of opposition activists have been arrested since the protests began, while internet sites appear to have been blocked and the media heavily restricted.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was following the situation closely.

“The position of me and the United Nations is that the genuine will of the Iranian people should be fully respected,” he told reporters.

EU foreign ministers expressed “serious concern” and called for an inquiry into the conduct of the election, while France and Germany each summoned their Iranian ambassadors to explain what was going on.


Ahmadinejad supporters demonstrate outside the British embassy in Tehran on 15/6/09
Ahmadinejad supporters protested at French and UK embassies in Tehran

German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticised the use of “completely unacceptable” force against protesters and called for a “transparent evaluation of the election result”.

Groups of Ahmadinejad supporters gathered outside French and British embassies in Tehran, protesting against what they consider to be foreign interference in Iran’s affairs.

“We have gathered here to protest the hidden interference of the Brits and the world, who are trying to create chaos in our country,” one protester said.

The French government issued a statement saying they had told Iranian diplomats that security forces “must protect the French embassy”.

Among the countries congratulating Mr Ahmadinejad on his victory were Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela and North Korea.

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PKR Gets Set-Ready-Go for Saturday’s special congress

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 13, 2009


By Wong Choon Mei [Updated]

race1PKR officials are busy putting the final touches to Saturday’s special congress, where a raft of iconic reforms are due to be passed aimed at putting the party at the forefront of the country’s political league and strengthening its bid for national power along with its coalition partners.

A solid turnout is expected as delegates table motions that will give individual members direct voting rights to choose whom they want as their national leaders – from the party presidency, a post currently held by Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, all the way down to the 20-member supreme council.

At division level, voting is already on a one-man one-vote system, but a resolution calling for the process to be further enhanced by secret balloting and indelible ink is also on the cards.

So too are a tenure limit to nine years or three terms for the party presidency and a landmark qualifying-age reduction for Youth members to 35 and below.

“All the resolutions are so major, no other party in Malaysia has ever had the will to do it before,” Pantai Jerejak assemblyman Sim Tze Tzin told Suara Keadilan.

“For me, apart from the direct vote, it is the Youth qualifying-age that will really do things for PKR. It will not only transform the party but also propel politics in Malaysia into a new and younger dimension.

“I am 32 years old so I can tell you it will influence people in my age group to become active in politics. And by operation of process, the political landscape will change accordingly. How will it change? It will  get younger as young Malaysia gets more and more empowered. They will finally get a chance to put through their ideas and govern using their own style.”

Women empowerment is also another big thing at the PKR-do tomorrow, which will kick off with dinner on Friday night.

A resolution putting women in charge of at least 30 percent of all party posts is another reform aimed to reflect the reality of the times and the gender’s contribution.

“This is something PKR is very serious about and what we are trying to do is to give shape to that wish. We don’t want to just pay lip service and then do nothing. Women are and will be a vital part of PKR,” said vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah.

Institutionalising PKR

But attracting the greatest buzz is of course the direct vote to be given to PKR’s 300,000-strong membership.

Not only will members get to personally vote in their choice of national leadership, they will get to do it in style – again by secret ballot and using indelible ink!

The first vote will take place in 2010 when party polls are due.

“We are very excited and proud because no other party in Malaysia has dared to leave the choice to their members,” Teja assemblyman Chang Lih Kang.

“Whether you like it or not, this actually shows the current leaders are institutionalizing the party. Anwar Ibrahim and Wan Azizah are saying PKR is for the people, it is not our private sole-proprietorship!

“It is really a very generous gesture and will attract a lot of people into PKR. At the moment, many shun politics because it is viewed as corrupt and a game that only the rich and already-powerful can win. The others have no chance.

“But with this direct vote, the door is open. Meritocracy and popularity will be important. Everyone has a fighting chance if they wish to go for it. So I think we will see a huge jump in membership because of this.”

However, there were other members who wondered if the changes were overly bold and being taken too quickly.

“I am optimistic about the changes these resolutions will bring,” said Youth Chief Shamsul Iskandar Akin . “But maybe not all the motions will go through at one go. Some may hit a snag, but then this is truly what the democratic process is all about.”

“You must remember, we have delegates from all over including Sabah and Sarawak. They will be concerned about their representation in the party. Some thought must be given to that. So we may see heated debate but again, that is part of the process.”

Nevertheless,  the majority view was to allow the system’s natural check-and-balance to correct and re-balance teething problems.

“It is like a child learning to walk. If you are too protective, he will only know how to crawl. But if you gauge the time is right and you are brave enough to let go, your child will surely walk even though he may fall down at first,” said Sim.

“So the same for PKR. There are critics who worry about corruption and vote-buying once it is open to all members. But this is so silly, the corruption will be grossly reduced. It is when you restrict it to a small number of delegates, then it is easy to buy out that small group.

“I am sure you know a good example of this type of corruption is Umno. Not only is it feasible to vote-buy all the way up to the Umno presidency but ultimately also the premiership of the country.”

Anwar: Hadi, Kit Siang and I remain committed to Pakatan

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 11, 2009


By Anwar Ibrahim

Kenyataan ini saya edarkan setelah berbincang dengan Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang dan Sdr. Lim Kit Siang semalam. Kami mengulangi komitmen untuk memperkukuhkan kerjasama Pakatan Rakyat bagi menjayakan Agenda Perubahan.

Kami berpendapat adalah penting untuk memberi peluang dan ruang kepada rakan-rakan parti komponen untuk menjelaskan pendirian mereka berhubung sebarang isu yang berbangkit.

Kami percaya perselisihan kecil yang digembar gembur oleh media Umno-BN tidak akan meretakkan permuafakatan yang terbina dari iltizam untuk membawa Perubahan kepada rakyat Malaysia keseluruhannya.

Perlu dijelaskan bahawa isu rundingan PAS-umno yang berbangkit dari kenyataan Ustaz Abdul Hadi pada sidang akhbar selepas menyampaikan ucapan dasar di muktamar tahunan baru-baru ini harus dilihat dalam konteks pidato Presiden Pas.

Dalam pidato tersebut Ustaz Abdul Hadi mengulangi komitmen PAS untuk memastikan Perubahan terlaksana melalui wadah Pakatan Rakyat dan menggariskan kewajaran muafakat antara parti bagi menyelesaikan krisis Perak melalui pilihanraya, menggesa agar badan kehakiman bebas dari sebarang kongkongan dan pilihanraya yang telus.

Inshaallah permuafakatan Keadilan, PAS dan DAP akan bertambah utuh dari hari ke hari. Rakyat Malaysia mahukan sebuah kerajaan yang bertanggungjawab, telus dan cekap mentadbir bagi kembali memacu negara ini ke persada. Pakatan Rakyat bersedia menggalas tanggungjawab demi memastikan negara ini berada di landasan yang tepat.


Grounds for dissent in a KL coffee party

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 10, 2009


small_cup_of_coffeeKUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Dressed in black, the colour of protest, 200 activists sat at cafe tables quietly drinking coffee — black, of course. Bewildered, police stood outside and watched the coffee drinkers without interfering.

The protest at three cafes in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, was their way around a ban on unauthorised protests. It was the latest twist in a row over the governing National Front coalition’s seizure of power in Perak state.

“Police were coming down hard on us and so we used this unique way to protest and tell people to demand an election in Perak,” said Wong Chin Huat, a protest leader and academic at the city’s Monash University campus. “We managed to send the message across.”

However, Sunday’s protest — which the academic called a “mild form” of civil disobedience — did not last long. Within half an hour, the managers of the cafes – outlets of the popular Old Town White Coffee chain — had ushered the protesters and other customers out the door. A spokeswoman said the three were shutting temporarily for “regular maintenance and renovations”.

She said it was unfair of protesters to use the chain’s outlets for the protest. “We have loyal patrons who are unhappy with so many people suddenly appearing all wearing black, which we associate with death. This is very bad for business.”

Undeterred, pro-opposition NGOs yesterday announced they would repeat the protest tomorrow — at seven Old Town outlets in the capital and Penang. The protesters, who announced the location of the protests via the social networking website Facebook, urged the coffee company not to close the outlets.

“We are only drinking coffee and paying for it,” one protest leader said. “They make money, we get our message across.”

This time, police will be waiting for them. “We are monitoring the targeted outlets and if necessary will arrest any person wearing black as they approach the outlets,” a police spokesman said. — South China Morning Post

Obama’s speech to Muslims seeks the right balance

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 5, 2009


barack-obama-bw1(06-04) 20:48 PDT — President Obama sought in Cairo today to warm the Islamic world to the United States eight years after the 9/11 attacks, carefully targeting the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims in their prime time.


And Obama gave them a lot to listen to in his 55-minute speech at Cairo University, with a sprinkling of allusions, phrases and references that may have flown by many Western viewers – but were aimed at the heart of the Islamic experience.

“Very small things, like saying shukran (thank you) or salaam aleikum (peace be upon you) or quoting from the Koran … these are hugely significant things,” said Munir Jiwa, director of the Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

Obama’s speech, delivered while most Americans slumbered, was billed as an open hand to the Islamic world, was wide-ranging, touching on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, globalization and modernity, women’s rights, history, war and stereotypes many Americans hold of Muslims – and vice versa.

But threaded through the address were words that resonated with many Muslims – references that are elementary and familiar to even young students of Islam but that were surprising to many when coming from a U.S. president.

President George W. Bush, Obama’s predecessor, also made speeches seeking to bridge the gap to the Islamic world but he is remembered more for gaffes – such as referring to the war on terror as a “crusade” or dubbing the military response to the Sept. 11 attacks as operation “Infinite Justice,” which Islam teaches is the province of Allah alone. The name was changed to “Enduring Freedom.”

By contrast, Obama’s allusions were positive and relatively sophisticated, said Georgetown University professor John Esposito, author of “Who Speaks for Islam?”

“It’s what a good speaker ought to be able to do. You don’t just take your message, you craft the presentation to your audience,” he said. “(The speech was) clearly written by a president with a group of advisers who understand what Muslim concerns are, what Muslim hopes are.”

Some allusions were simple: Obama opened his speech with salaam aleikum and closed with “may God’s peace be upon you,” bookends commonly used by many in the Muslim world. He cited several Koranic phrases and recounted the history of American-Islamic relations, from Morocco’s recognition of America in 1776 to the modern experience of Islamic Americans.

Some experts also noted what Obama did not say: While he referred to extremists he did not use the word terrorism. Nor did he mention jihad, a complicated term that for many Americans is synonymous with terrorism to the frustration of Muslims who often use it in a positive sense of struggling for a personal goal.

“Jihad is a term of honor, and for many, many young Middle Easterners who yearn to fight what they see as oppression, to be a mujahid is a term of honor, of courage, of valor,” said Donna Lee Bowen, an expert in Islam and politics at Brigham Young University. “And we in the west use it as a derogatory term.”

Among Obama’s more sophisticated references was his mention of “Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition.” The president did not elaborate but many Muslims would have recalled stories of the centuries when Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in relative harmony in Islamic Spain.

“That’s exactly the resonance it has, some kind of golden age when everybody goes along,” said Nathan Brown, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “That’s how it’s remembered.”

Similarly, Obama’s closing reference to the Islamic story of Isra would have resonated in many Islamic ears. A popular tale often mentioned by Muslims in interfaith contexts, the story tells how the prophet Muhammad rode a magical steed – called al-Buraq– on a tour of heaven where he meets with Jesus and Moses.

In mentioning the three prophets’ names, Obama used the phrase “peace be upon them,” which several Islamic experts said showed not only familiarity with traditional Islamic honorifics, but also bridged the three faiths.

“It’s amazing. It’s an acknowledgement that Islam is part of this Abrahamic tradition, that it’s continuity and that he recognizes that (Jesus and Moses) are also prophets of Islam,” Jiwa said. “These things resonate with people.”

That could be seen in the nearly two-dozen times Obama was interrupted with applause, Esposito said, especially for his religious references. Thursday’s release of a new tape from Osama bin Laden was a coincidence that Esposito said suggests extremist groups are displeased with Obama’s efforts at bridge-building.

“They’re going to be apoplectic,” he said. “(The Bush administration) was a dream for jihadists who just said, ‘Look, this guy talks like a neo-colonialist hegemonic leader ….’ You can’t say any of that about the way the Obama administration is moving forward.”

But celebration of Obama’s speech was not universal in the Islamic world. While many bloggers and commentators cheered it, some said pretty words are meaningless unless they are followed by concrete policy changes in Iraq, Afghanistan and especially the Middle East.

“They throw in some Koranic quotations, and everybody is yeah, yeah, yeah … but in the meantime people are dying,” Bowen said. “Expectations are very, very high for Obama. And I think that cuts both ways…. They’ll say this is a good first step but they’re also going to say, where have you been?”

E-mail Matthew B. Stannard at

Barack Obama launches key Mid-East mission

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 3, 2009


Barack Obama boards Air Force One for his Middle East trip

Mr Obama says he wants America to re-engage with the Middle East

US President Barack Obama has arrived in Saudi Arabia at the start of a Middle East tour aimed at increasing US engagement with the Islamic world.

Mr Obama will spend a few hours in Riyadh before heading for Cairo, where he will make a keynote speech.

He says he wants to open dialogue with Muslims, overcome misapprehensions, and revive Middle East peace negotiations.

Apart from a stop-over in Iraq in April, it is Mr Obama’s first time in the region since becoming president.

Barack Obama’s goal is to improve perceptions of the US and to push for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, says BBC Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

In the process he wants to make other US strategic goals in the region – like stability in Iraq and the containment of Iran – easier to achieve.

3 June: Saudi Arabia – talks with King Abdullah on Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations
4 June: Egypt – talks with President Hosni Mubarak, keynote speech at Cairo university
5 June: Germany – meets Chancellor Angela Merkel, visits to Dresden and to Buchenwald concentration camp
6 June: France – meets President Nicolas Sarkozy, attends D-Day events in Normandy

To do this he needs Arab partners and this trip takes in two key nations – Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The Saudis are sponsors of the only comprehensive peace plan for relations between the Arab world and Israel.

Egypt is intimately involved with the Palestinian problem, acting as an intermediary between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Mr Obama needs both countries on board if he is to breathe life into the largely moribund peace negotiations, our correspondent says.

‘Action not words’

In Saudi Arabia, Mr Obama will hold talks with King Abdullah in Riyadh. As well as regional issues, Mr Obama said he would raise the issue of oil prices with the Saudi ruler.

US and Saudi flags

Saudi Arabia is gearing up for the visit by the US leader

Ahead of the visit, al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia issued an internet statement vowing to target President Obama’s convoy in Riyadh, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner reports.

On Thursday, Mr Obama is to deliver a speech at Cairo University which he hopes will set a new tone in US-Arab relations.

After Cairo, Mr Obama will travel on to Europe for D-Day commemorations.

The tour itinerary does not include Israel but shortly before departing for Saudi Arabia, Mr Obama had a meeting with Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, in Washington.

The president is reported to have used the meeting to reiterate that the US intends to be tough with Israel on the question of settlement building in the West Bank.

Israel is resisting calls to freeze building activity in all settlements, but Palestinian leaders have said there can be no progress towards peace without a halt to such construction.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of his visit, Mr Obama said he believed the US was “going to be able to get serious negotiations back on track” between Israel and the Palestinians.

He said his visit offered the US and the Islamic world the chance “to listen to each other a little bit more”.

But there were no silver bullets, he warned.

“There are very real policy issues that have to be worked through that are difficult. Ultimately, it’s going to be action and not words that determine the path, the progress from here on out,” he said.

On the eve of his visit, the deputy leader of al-Qaeda urged Muslims to ignore the new tone from Washington.

In an audio message posted on a website, Ayman al-Zawahiri said Mr Obama’s “bloody messages” – in Iraq and Afghanistan – would not be concealed by “polished words”.

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