Obama Addresses 'Extraordinary Change' in Middle East, North Africa

Published on Thursday 19th May 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama has welcomed the "extraordinary change" taking place in the Middle East and North Africa, but said too many countries have met the calls for change with violence.Obama, speaking Thursday at the State Department, said the most extreme example is Libya, where he said Moammar Gadhafi launched a war against his own people.  He said thousands of people would have been killed in Libya if the United States and its partners did not act.He said Syria has also chosen the "path of murder and mass arrests." Obama called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to either lead a transition to democracy or "get out the way."  He called on the Syrian government to stop shooting protestors, allow peaceful protests and stop unjust arrests.

Obama: 4 Key Pillars in Aid to Mideast, N. Africa

  • 1. Economic management- Improve economic policy, promote transparency and prevent corruption- Technical assistance from U.S. government, universities and think tanks to NGOs, individuals and regional governments- Mobilize international financial institutions to support home-grown reforms
  • 2. Economic stability- Relieve Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt and use the money to create jobs and support entrepreneurs- Galvanize financial support for Egypt and Tunisia from international financial institutions and regional neighbors
  • 3. Economic modernization- Up to $2 billion for private sectors throughout the Middle East, N. Africa- Establish Egyptian-American and Tunisian-American Enterprise Funds to stimulate private sector investment- Support reorientation of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to support countries in the Middle East, N. Africa
  • 4. Trade integration, investment- Regional U.S. trade and investment partnership initiative- Work with European Union to boost trade within region, promote greater integration with U.S. and European markets and open door for regional trade agreement

Obama noted that in the last six months two leaders have been replaced in the Middle East and North Africa, and he said "more may follow" as people rise up to demand their basic rights. He said it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region and support a transition to democracy.  He said that effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia.Obama also said a lasting peace is more urgent than ever between Israel and the Palestinians. Obama is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House Friday. He also said that after years of war against al-Qaida and its affiliates, the United States dealt extremists a "huge blow" by killing Osama bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan.  He said the al-Qaida leader was not a martyr, but rather a "mass murderer." The president introduced financial initiatives to support economic modernization, reform and stability in Egypt and Tunisia, where pro-democracy demonstrations have led to the resignations of longtime authoritarian rulers. The White House announced an initial $1 billion in debt relief and investments, and another $1 billion in loan guarantees for the two countries.The address came as Tunisia's and Egypt's revolutions are overshadowed by more violent conflicts in Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.Obama said Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. President Obama, who has made outreach to the Islamic world a signature of his presidency, delivered a speech in Cairo in 2009 to Muslims around the world.


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