12 April 2009

Arabs New "Love Fest" with Obama

BEIRUT - Barack Obama's open-handed approach to the Middle East has won him praise from some Arab leaders viewed by previous U.S. presidents as deadly enemies.

"Obama is a flicker of hope amid the imperialist darkness," Muammar Gaddafi told a rally of his supporters last week.

The Libyan leader, once a thorn in America's side, was dubbed a "mad dog" by former President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. He has mended ties with Washington since 2003.

"He (Obama) speaks logically. Arrogance no longer exists in the American approach which was previously based on dictating to the rest of the world to meet its own conditions," Gaddafi said.

Obama has also earned conditional tributes from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Palestinian Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and Lebanon's Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah -- all at times linked by Washington with terrorism.

Even non-Arab Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has recognised that Obama might offer something new. "We speak with great respect for Obama. But we are realists. We want to see real change," he told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine. "We feel that Obama must now follow his words with actions."

The readiness of America's adversaries to acknowledge that Obama has brought a more sensitive verbal approach to the region is striking. In contrast, some traditional U.S. allies such as Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak have kept tight-lipped.

Now Arab leaders wonder whether Obama is able or willing to change the substance, not just the tone, of U.S. policy. source