Obama names special envoy to pan-Islamic body

Arab World Materials 14 February 2010 00:44 (UTC +04:00)

US President Barack Obama on Saturday named Rashad Hussain as his special envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, aiming to build on pledges to restore ties with the Muslim world, AFP reported.
In a recorded video message to the seventh annual US-Islamic World Forum meeting in the Qatari capital, Obama said he wanted to deepen partnerships with the Muslim world "and to develop others."
"I'm proud to announce today that I am appointing my special envoy to the OIC Rashad Hussain," said Obama, who opened his message with the Muslim greeting of "Assalaamu Alaykum" (peace be with you).
"As an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff, Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo."
In June 2009, just a few months after his inauguration, Obama travelled to Egypt to deliver an address aimed at restarting US relations with Muslims worldwide after eight rocky years under his predecessor George W. Bush.
"I laid out a vision where we all embrace our responsibilities to build a world that is more peaceful and secure," Obama told the forum in Doha, organised by the Brookings think-tank's Saban Center for Middle East Policy and Qatar's foreign affairs ministry
Washington has since been "responsibly ending the war in Iraq," while "in Afghanistan and beyond, we are forging partnerships to isolate violent extremists, reduce corruption and to promote good governance and development," he said.
"It has only been eight months since Cairo, and much remains to be done. But I believe we've laid the groundwork to turn those pledges into action."
Obama, who has made the elusive search for Middle East peace a top priority of his administration, also renewed his commitment to seeking a two-state solution for the Palestinians.
"We remain unyielding in pursuit of a two-state solution that recognises the rights and security of Israelis and Palestinians," he vowed.
But he acknowledged the path ahead would not be easy, admitting "the United States and Muslims around the world have often slipped into a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust that can lead to conflict rather than cooperation.
"Fully realising the new beginning we envision will take a long-term commitment. But we have begun," Obama said.
"Now, it falls to us all, governments and individuals, to do the hard work that must be done turning words into deeds and Writing the Next Chapter in the ties between us, with faith in each other, on the basis of mutual respect."
Hussain, who has been acting as Obama's deputy associate counsel, said he was honoured to have been appointed to the post.
"As part of his commitment to continue to seek a new beginning with Muslim communities around the world, and to expand upon the partnerships he outlined in Cairo, I am honoured and humbled that the president has asked me to serve as his Special Envoy to the OIC," he said in a statement.
George W. Bush formally named the first US envoy to the OIC in February 2008, appointing Texas entrepreneur Sada Cumber.
The OIC, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah, with its 57 members is the world's largest Islamic assembly.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was leaving Washington on Saturday to attend the conference the next day with other senior US officials, The Brookings Institution said.
The aim of the conference was to bring "leaders from across the Muslim world for an intensive three-day dialogue with key US officials, societal leaders and policy experts," it said.
At the 2008 US-Islamic forum, delegates voiced support for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, although some warned against expecting any radical policy change should he win the White House.
A year into his administration, Obama has yet to achieve any significant momentum on stalled peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and Muslim audiences are now less receptive to his promise of a "new beginning" with the Muslim world.