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President Obama's olive branch to the Muslim world in Cairo yesterday has been welcomed by Respect Party leader and Sparkbrook councillor Salma Yaqoob.

In a ground-breaking address, designed to soothe tensions inflamed by the so-called "war on terror", Obama called for a "new beginning" in the relationship between the US and the Islamic world.

He said that Iran had the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and referred to colonialism, which had "denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims".

Although he spoke about his country's "unshakeable bond" with Israel, he called settlements on the West Bank illegitimate and affirmed his support for a "twin state solution" to the ongoing Middle East conflict.

At the same time, he insisted that the richness of religious diversity should be uphold, even in devout Muslim countries.

All in all, a firm a refreshing approach, as Yaqoob recognised - albeit with some reservations.

She said: "President Obama’s call for a ‘new beginning’ in relations between the United States and the Muslim world is very welcome.

"The absence in his speech of any bellicose threats to Iran stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, George W Bush, as do his comments about the ‘intolerable’ situation facing the Palestinians.

"However, in view of the damage done to the United States’ reputation across the Muslim world, actions not words will be required to really mark a new beginning.

"Many Muslims in Britain are of South Asian origin and are alarmed at how the US intervention in Afghanistan is also destabilising Pakistan.

"The sooner there is progress to redress the injustice of the Palestinians and end the occupation of Afghanistan, the quicker a new chapter can be written."



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