Obama vows quick diplomatic action in Mideast

>> Tuesday, January 13, 2009

13th January, 2009

WASHINGTON: President-elect Barack Obama said he was prepared for immediate involvement in Mideast diplomacy toward a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but once again refused to show his hand about specifics that would lead him to success where his predecessors have failed for more than a half-century.

Pressed on his silence about the raging war in the Gaza Strip, Obama quickly reverted to his contention that there can be only one president speaking for the United States on foreign policy issues, a position that has caused some to claim the incoming chief executive was being callous in the face of Palestinian suffering in the Israeli offensive to cripple the Hamas organization. Obama does not take office from President George W. Bush until Jan. 20.

“I think that players in the region understand the compromises that are going to need to be made. But the politics of it are hard,” Obama said in an ABC television interview broadcast Sunday. “And the reason it’s so important for the United States to be engaged and involved immediately, not waiting until the end of their term, is because working through the politics of this requires a third party that everybody has confidence, wants to see a fair and just outcome.”

Obama reiterated that the violence and suffering on both sides was “heartbreaking. And obviously what that does is it makes me much more determined to try to break a deadlock that has gone on for decades now.”

The incoming leader, who has been receiving daily national security briefings since his election in November, also acknowledged that his campaign pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay will be more of a challenge than he anticipated. Many of those held at the military site are suspected terrorists or potential witnesses in cases against them.

“It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize _ and we are going to get it done _ but part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication,” he said.

The president-elect said that while some evidence against terrorism suspects may be tainted by the tactics used to obtain it, that doesn’t change the fact they are “people who are intent on blowing us up.”

Speaking in general terms, Obama said the country had made security progress since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but dangers persist. He said national security remains a concern, but added:

“We know exactly what they’re planning, where they’re positioned. If you have a small group of people in today’s world with today’s technology who are intent on doing harm and are willing to die, that is something that’s always going to be a challenge.”

During the interview, Obama criticized the Bush administration for the lack of oversight in implementing the $700 billion federal bailout plan for the reeling U.S. financial system and called for tighter controls on how the remaining funds are spent.

The incoming president’s economic team and the Bush administration are in consultations about release of the second $350 billion allocated under the bailout measure passed by Congress last fall. But the Treasury Department has come under criticism for failing to provide taxpayers and Congress with sufficient disclosure about or control over the massive infusion of money into the financial system.

“Let’s lay out very specifically some of the things that we are going to do with the next $350 billion of money,” Obama said. “And I think that we can regain the confidence of both Congress and the American people that this is not just money that is being given to banks without any strings attached and nobody knows what happens, but rather that it is targeted very specifically at getting credit flowing again to businesses and families.”

He also voiced dissatisfaction with how the first $350 billion was spent under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“I, like many, are disappointed with how the whole TARP process has unfolded. There hasn’t been enough oversight. We found out this week in a report that we are not tracking where this money is going,” the president-elect said.

Obama meets in Washington on Monday with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in a session that was expected to cover U.S. immigration policy, efforts to diminish the flow of elicit drugs out of Mexico and the violence raging there that is slopping over into the United States.

Sources: New Sabah Times.


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