Obama to lay out new Middle East strategy as early as next week 11May11 May 12, 2011

Haaretz -  11 May 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama could deliver a major policy speech as early as next week laying out his new Middle East strategy following the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden and amid ongoing upheaval in the Arab world, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

A key sticking point is whether Obama, who gained a boost in global stature with the death of the al Qaeda chief last week, will also use his coming address to present new proposals for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, a source familiar with the administration’s internal debate said.

Obama, who will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on May 20, is considering giving the speech before he leaves on a trip to Europe early in the week of May 22, a senior administration official said.

The administration, seeking to counter criticism it has struggled to keep pace with turmoil in the Arab world, has been crafting a new U.S. strategy for the region since shortly after popular uprisings erupted, toppling autocratic rulers in Egypt and Tunisia and engulfing Libya in near-civil war.

The killing of bin Laden in a U.S. raid on his Pakistan compound will give Obama a chance to make the case for Arabs to reject al Qaeda’s Islamist militancy and embrace democratic change in a new era of relations with Washington.

Though Obama has made repairing U.S. ties with the Muslim world a key thrust of his foreign policy, one U.S. official said the coming address would be “about political change in the Middle East and North Africa, not about Islam.”

The timing of the speech has not yet been set, U.S. officials stressed.

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