Obama to give Middle East speech on Thursday

US President will speak about uprisings in the Arab world and North Africa.

Washington: US President Barack Obama will give his long-awaited speech on uprisings in the Arab world and North Africa and the wider Middle East next Thursday at the State Department, an official said.

Obama`s address will come amid region-wide reverberations from the killing by US special forces of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and in a week in which the President will meet the leaders of Israel and Jordan at the White House.

It will also coincide with new questions about the viability of Obama`s push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, given the resignation of his regional envoy George Mitchell.

"We have gone through a remarkable period in that region -- the Middle East and North Africa," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

"The President obviously has some important things to say about how he views the upheaval and how he has approached the US response to events in the region," Carney said.

"I am sure it will be fairly sweeping and comprehensive."

The President is believed likely to make the case that uprisings by the people of Middle Eastern nations against long-ruling autocrats reveal the ideology of al Qaeda to be redundant.

"It`s an interesting coincidence of timing -- that he is killed at the same time that you have a model emerging in the region of change that is completely the opposite of bin Laden`s model," Ben Rhodes, a top Obama foreign policy advisor, told the Wall Street Journal this week.

Bin Laden perished in a US special forces raid at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan early on May 02, ending a 10-year manhunt for the mastermind of the September 11 attacks in 2001 and other strikes against the United States.

It remained unclear whether Obama would offer any new approaches in his effort to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians, following the breakdown of talks late last year due to a row over settlements.

Obama`s failure to forge progress in the push for a Palestinian state will be in focus when he has separate meetings with Jordan`s King Abdullah II and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.

The uprisings in the region, which started in Tunisia and have swept through Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain and smouldered in some other states, have posed a fierce challenge to decades-old orthodoxy of US foreign policy.

They have forced the United States to choose between allegiances to ageing autocrats who have helped ensure an uneasy regional stability for decades, and demands for greater political freedoms by courageous demonstrators.

Obama`s domestic opponents have accused him of being slow to embrace or insufficiently supportive of protestors in revolts in Egypt and Syria, for example.

But US allies like Saudi Arabia were reportedly dismayed at how Obama helped to push Egyptian former president Hosni Mubarak toward his exit and are beginning to doubt Washington`s commitment to its alliance.

The swift, unpredictable pace of the uprisings has also demanded on-the-fly changes of tack and policy for the normally sluggish Washington diplomatic machine and exposed diminished US leverage in the region.

Though the scope of Obama`s speech is expected to be broad, officials have cautioned against any thoughts that it could approach the sweep of his address to the Muslim world in Cairo in 2009.

Bureau Report

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