Wednesday 20 September 2017

Donald Trump calls for help in tackling 'Islamic extremism'

President Donald Trump holds a sword and dances with traditional dancers during a welcome ceremony at Murabba Palace (AP)
President Donald Trump holds a sword and dances with traditional dancers during a welcome ceremony at Murabba Palace (AP)
Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to visit Egypt from President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi
Donald Trump holds a bilateral meeting with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani
Donald Trump with King Salman and others at the summit (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump has implored Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries to extinguish "Islamic extremism" emanating from the region.

Mr Trump described the situation as a "battle between good and evil" rather than a clash between the west and Islam.

In a pointed departure from his predecessor, the US president all but promised he would not publicly admonish middle eastern rulers for human rights violations and oppressive reigns.

"We are not here to lecture - we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be or how to worship," Mr Trump said, speaking in an ornate room in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

"Instead, we are here to offer partnership - based on shared interests and values - to pursue a better future for us all."

The president's address was the centrepiece of his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, his first overseas trip since his January swearing-in.

For Mr Trump, the trip is a reprieve from the controversies that have marred his young presidency and an attempt to reset his relationship with a region and a religion he fiercely criticised a candidate.

During the 2016 US campaign, Mr Trump mused about his belief that "Islam hates us".

On Sunday, however, standing before dozens of regional leaders, he said Islam was "one of the world's great faiths".

While running for the job he now holds, Mr Trump criticised President Barack Obama for not using the term "radical Islamic extremism" and said that refusal indicated Mr Obama did not understand America's enemy.

In his Saudi speech, Mr Trump condemned "Islamic extremism", ''Islamists" and "Islamic terror", but not once uttered the precise phrase he pressed Mr Obama on.

He made no mention of the disputed travel ban, signed days after he took office, that temporarily banned immigration to the US from seven majority Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Both the original order and a second directive that dropped Iraq from the banned list have been blocked by the courts.

Mr Trump offered few indications of whether he planned to shift US policy to better-fight terrorism.

There were no promises of new financial investment or announcements of increased US military presence in the region.

The president put much of the onus for combating extremists on Mideast leaders: "Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities."

Mr Trump's remarks came in a meeting with dozens of regional leaders who gathered in Riyadh for a summit with the US president and Saudi King Salman.

The king has lavished praise and all the trappings of a royal welcome on the new American president, welcoming in particular Mr Trump's pledge to be tougher on Iran than Mr Obama was.

Indeed, Mr Trump and Mr Salman were in agreement on the threat Iran poses to the region when they addressed their fellow leaders: Mr Trump accused Iran of "destruction and chaos" and the king said its rival "has been the spearhead of global terrorism".

The Saudis' warm embrace was a welcome change for the besieged White House.

Officials spent the days before Mr Trump's departure dealing with a steady stream of revelations about the federal investigation into his campaign's possible ties to Russia and the fallout from his firing of FBI director James Comey.

AP

Press Association

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