Entries in Obama (7)


Obama Compares Nelson Mandela to George Washington

WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Image(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Although President Obama will not get a chance to see Nelson Mandela on his trip to South Africa, he is using his historic visit to pay tribute to the man he calls a hero to the world and will meet with the Mandela family.

At a joint press conference with South African President Jacob Zuma Saturday morning, President Obama spoke extensively about Mandela's legacy.

"Our thoughts and those of Americans and people all around the world are with Nelson Mandela and his family and all of South Africans," Obama said. "The struggle here for freedom, Madiba's moral courage, this country's historic transition to a free nation has been a personal inspiration to me, an inspiration to the world, and it continues to be."

Obama's two-day visit to South Africa -- and his entire week-long visit to the continent -- has been dominated by the Mandela vigil, giving Obama to speak about what Mandela means to Africa and the rest of the world.

"The outpouring of love that we've seen in recent days shows that the triumph of Mandela and this nation speaks to something very deep in the human spirit," Obama said. "That's what Mandela represents, that's what South Africa can represent to the world and what brought me back here."
Later, when asked about his policy toward Africa, Obama again returned to Mandela.

"Mandela shows what was possible when a priority is placed on human dignity, respect for law, that all people are treated equally," Obama said.

"And what Nelson Mandela also stood for is that the well-being of the country is more important than the interests of any one person," Obama continued. "George Washington is admired because after two terms he said enough, I'm going back to being a citizen. There were no term limits, but he said I'm a citizen. I served my time. And it's time for the next person, because that's what democracy is about. And Mandela similarly was able to recognize that, despite how revered he was, that part of this transition process was greater than one person."

At the joint press conference, President Zuma offered an update on Mandela's health -- saying there has been no change in his health but that he hopes he will be able to leave the hospital soon.

"The position of former president Mandela, he remains critical but stable," Zuma said. "Nothing has changed so far. We are hoping that he is going to improve. With all the prayers and good wishes that have been made, everyone is wishing Mandela well. The doctors who are tending to him are doing everything -- these are excellent doctors. We hope that very soon, he will be out of hospital."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Palestinians Frustrated by Obama’s Trip to the Middle East

(WASHINGTON) -- President Barack Obama’s last day visiting Israel took him back to the West Bank for a cultural stop in Bethlehem. There he toured the Church of the Nativity, the biblical birthplace of Jesus, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The visit lasted less than an hour, before Obama’s motorcade whisked him off to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport to fly to Jordan. The brevity of the outing – along with just a few hours in Ramallah the day before – angered Palestinians, who felt the president ignored their plight, their desire for an independent state.

“He didn’t offer anything,” said an exasperated Palestinian official with knowledge of the meeting Obama had with Abbas on Thursday. “The problem is, he’s not showing any willingness or vision to implement his vision on the ground.”

“Obama left the way he came,” he added. “We’re wondering why he came.”

In a press conference with Abbas, Obama declined to go further than saying that Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank were not constructive for peace talks. That fell well short of a declaration that they’re illegal, the viewpoint of the international community. Palestinian leaders have maintained that they will not engage in peace talks without a freeze on construction and expansion of Israeli settlements.

“It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands, to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank, or to displace Palestinian families from their home,” Obama said in a speech to Israeli university students in Jerusalem on Thursday. “Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”

In the West Bank village of Beit Ijza, the Gharib family’s story exemplifies the anger felt by Palestinians seeing settlements expand and encroach on their land.

With seven brothers and three sisters, the family owns a house now surrounded almost on all sides by the Givon HaHadasha settlement. The settlement started as a small cluster of homes in the valley below. But over 30 years it has climbed the hill, surrounding the home. Ten of the family’s original 25 acres were confiscated, and almost all the rest are behind a fence that requires a military permit to access.

The home is circled by fences 20 feet high, with a narrow pathway leading to it from the village of Beit Ijza.

“It’s like we’re in prison,” one of the brothers, Mahmoud Gharib, said. “We have cameras, gates, fences, walls.”

“People in jail have easier conditions than this,” he added.

Asked why they stay in such difficult circumstances and whether they consider selling, the brothers said they and their father before them had been offered blank checks before.

“This is my homeland, this is my house,” Mahmoud said. “The Israelis are stealing the land day and night. I’ll only go from here to my grave.”

Fifteen acres of their land, much of it olive groves, lie beyond the Israeli security fence. They need a permit from the army to access it by crossing through a fence and across a road. Mahmoud complained that the soldiers often show up hours late when they go to harvest their olives, and force them to leave before sundown.

While the Gharib brothers spoke with ABC News, a settler appeared on the other side of the fence. Avi Atias, a 24-year-old construction worker, said the two communities had had problems over the years but live relatively peacefully side by side.

“I can’t see it that way,” he responds when asked why the Gharib family is so angry, arguing that Jews were on this very land thousands of years ago.

“They have the right to stay here if they want. But if it was my decision, I would [not want to live like that],” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama:`We Are Fully Supportive of Israel’s Right to Defend Itself’

(BANGKOK, Thailand) -- President Obama today fully backed Israel’s right to defend itself and warned that the escalating violence in the Middle East threatens the prospect for a lasting peace process.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Obama called for an end to the firing of missiles into Israel by militants inside Gaza, saying “there is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”

The president cautioned that any ground offensive could lead to greater Israeli casualties.

“Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory,” he said. “If that can be accomplished without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that’s preferable. That’s not just preferable for the people in Gaza, it’s also preferable for the Israelis because if Israeli troops are in Gaza they are much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded.”

Obama reiterated America’s unwavering support for Israel. “We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself,” he said.

The president, who has been in contact with leaders in the region to try and de-escalate the violence, said “if we’re serious about wanting to resolve this situation and create a genuine peace process, it starts with no more missiles being fired into Israel’s territory and that then gives us the space to try and deal with these long-standing conflicts that exist.”

“We’re going to have to see what kind of progress we can make in the next 24, 36, 48 hours, but what I’ve said to [Egyptian] President Morsi and [Turkish] Prime Minister Erdogan is that those who champion the cause of the Palestinians should recognize that if we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza than the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track that leads to a two state solution is going to be pushed off way into the future,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Asserts Commitment to Asia/Pacific in Australia

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(CANBERRA) -- In a sweeping address before the Australian parliament, President Obama heralded his administration’s “deliberate and strategic decision” to recalibrate U.S. foreign policy in the Pacific, anchoring its new approach in the “unbreakable” 60-year alliance with Australia.

“The bonds between us run deep,” Obama told a packed House chamber in Canberra. “In each other’s story we see so much of ourselves.”

Recalling his first visit to Australia as a young boy, Obama told his hosts he’s always identified with “your optimism, your easygoing ways, your irreverent sense of humor” -- even on occasions when he couldn’t always understand their “foreign language.”

But more than a personal fondness for the Land Down Under, Obama offered a glowing appraisal of the economic and military ties with Australia, which is the largest foreign investor in U.S. markets and whose troops have fought alongside U.S. soldiers in every major conflict of the past hundred years.  He reaffirmed the bilateral partnership, which he said he’s tried to deepen since taking office.

Laying out his vision for the future, Obama said the “new focus” of America would be on the Asia Pacific region, particularly as U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan winds down.

“With most of the world’s nuclear power and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress.  As president, I’ve therefore made a deliberate and strategic decision—as a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future, by upholding core principles and in close partnership with our allies and friends.”

Obama stressed the U.S. would be making its military presence in the Asia Pacific a “top priority,” notwithstanding any potential cuts to defense spending that may come from ongoing budget debates.  

“Reductions in U.S. defense spending will not -- I repeat, will not -- come at the expense of the Asia Pacific,” he said.  On Tuesday, the administration announced that the U.S. was establishing a permanent military presence “down under” in part to boost ties with allies like Japan and South Korea while counterbalancing potential threats from North Korea and China.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


In Poland, President Obama Discusses Lessons for the Arab Spring‬

Pete Souza/The White House(WARSAW, Poland) -- Having visited two formerly occupied countries where there is now freedom and democracy -- Ireland and Poland – President Obama ruminated Saturday on their lessons for the countries embracing the same values in the so-called “Arab Spring.”

‪The process, he noted, is "not always smooth. There are going to be twists and turns. There are going to be occasions where you take one step forward and two steps back -- sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back."

What leaders of these changing nations need to do, he said, is first to understand that they have to "institutionalize this transformation," which he described as a potentially difficult and lengthy process.

"It’s not enough just to have the energy -- the initial thrust of those young people in Tahrir Square, or the initial enthusiasm of the Solidarity movement," he said. "That, then, has to be institutionalized and the habits of countries have to change."

Merely holding elections is not enough, he said. A process needs to emerge to establish rule of law and the respect of the rights of minorities, and mechanisms to guarantee freedom of the press and freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Potential ethnic conflicts that may arise need to be brokered.

Another lesson offered by the president was for the American people to understand the importance of the US in helping these countries. While countries on the outside "cannot impose this change," he said, they can help and facilitate and make a difference.

Just last night at a dinner with Central European leaders, one of them recalled that "'There were those who said we could not handle democracy, that our cultures were too different.  But America had faith in us.  And so now we want to join with America and have faith in those in the Middle East and in North Africa.  Even if some don't think that they can handle democracy, or that their cultures are too different, our experience tells us something different.'"

‪The president called that "a good lesson for all of us to remember."

On Saturday, one Polish political leader told the president that "he had lived through three waves of revolutionary transformation in his lifetime.  He saw the shift from military rule to democracy in Latin America.  He saw those changes then take place with incredible speed when the Berlin Wall came down and the Iron Curtain was pulled asunder.  And now he’s seeing what’s happening in North Africa and the Middle East."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gadhafi Makes Bizarre Speech as Turmoil Grows Feverish

Photo Courtesy - Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images(BENGHAZI, Libya) -- Colonel Gadhafi's grip of power seemed to slip further Thursday as opposition forces called for greater turn-out and the army reacted in violent desperation.

The embattled Libyan dictator gave a bizarre speech by phone Thursday, claiming the revolt was the work of Osama bin Laden and that the rebellious youth had been given hallucinogens. He rambled that the Queen of England has ruled longer than him and yet no one has ever asked her to step down. The speech was often incomprehensible.

Gadhafi's defense of his government came amid reports that his army of African mercenaries has begun to strike back at protesters, using an anti-aircraft gun to blast the minaret off a mosque where opposition demonstrators had sheltered and attacking the protesters with automatic weapons.

President Obama on Wednesday joined other world leaders in condemning this week's violent government crackdown on Libyan protesters who have held firm in their efforts to oust Gadhafi as he struggles to maintain power.

More video has emerged of Gadhafi's forces firing on protesters from helicopter gunships, and a fighter jet dropping bombs. Human rights groups say they've confirmed 300 deaths.

Witnesses said the number could be as high as 1,000.

President Obama said the United States is preparing a full range of options to respond to the crisis, including no-fly zones to prevent attacks and proposals for oil companies to stop operations in the world's 12th-largest oil exporter.

Meanwhile, thousands of foreigners, including hundreds of Americans, are being evacuated from Libya. Americans trying to leave aboard a ferry that was supposed to depart for the island of Malta were delayed by bad weather.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama and Hu Agree Progress Needed on Human Rights in China

Photo Courtesy - ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- As Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Obama held what they described as "candid" discussions on human rights Wednesday, skeletons from the Chinese leader's closet literally danced in the street outside the White House.

Dozens of colorful Tibetan protesters lined Pennsylvania Avenue along the north lawn, chanting "Shame on Hu Jintao," "Stop the killings in Tibet" and "President Obama, speak for Tibet." Some held signs with a familiar litany of grievances against the Chinese, including censorship, imprisonment of political critics, and oppression of minority groups.

Nearby in Lafayette Park, two 10-foot-tall skeleton figures painted in traditional Tibetan colors parried alongside a slithering green human dragon. They represented "the Tibetans who have died because of his [Hu Jintao's] ultra-violent rule in Tibet and are coming back to haunt him," said Stephanie Rogers, a grassroots organizer for Students for a Free Tibet. "They're not going away until he frees political prisoners."

The group says Chinese authorities have imprisoned more than 800 Tibetan political activists and 60 Tibetan writers, artists and intellectuals deemed to be undermining government policies. Author and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, also remains in a Chinese prison.

Inside the White House at a joint press conference, Obama acknowledged that human rights issues have been a source of tension between the U.S. and China, but said it shouldn't prevent cooperation.

Obama suggested China had improved its record on human rights over the past 30 years and said he expects further change in the decades ahead.

President Hu Jintao acknowledged "a lot" still needs to be done to improve human rights in his country, which is rapidly growing as an economic power. "We will continue our efforts to improve the lives of our people and promote democracy and rule of law," Hu said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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