Obama seeks to reconcile with muslims

CAIRO - President Barack Obama yesterday called for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims" and said together they could confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East.

"This cycle of suspicion and discord must end," Obama said in a widely anticipated speech in one of the world's largest Muslim countries, an address designed to reframe relations after the September 11 attacks, and the war in Iraq.

In a gesture, Obama conceded at the beginning of his remarks that tension "has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations".

"And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the US to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear."

At the same time, he said the same principle must apply in reverse.

"Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire."

Obama arrived in the Middle East on Wednesday, greeted by a threatening message from al-Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden.

In an audio recording, the terrorist leader said Obama inflamed the Muslim world by ordering Pakistan to crack down on militants in Swat Valley and block Islamic law. - Sapa-AP