Friday 20 April 2018

US vows to aid nations in fight for democracy

Toby Harnden in Washington

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama promised yesterday to seize "a historic opportunity" in the Middle East, pledging American support for human rights and serving notice on leaders who have "turned to repression".

The wide-ranging speech was billed by the White House as his most important since his address to the Muslim world in Cairo two years ago.

He sought for the first time to align the United States with the Arab Spring of uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, proclaiming that America has "a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals".

Mr Obama compared the upheaval to the American Revolution and the civil rights movement.


"Sometimes, in the course of history, the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years.

"In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a king, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat," he said.

Mr Obama was more explicit about the parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal than ever before. He said that Israel must accept the Palestinian demand to recognise the 1967 borders.

"The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state," he said.

Mr Obama stated "it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy".

He said: "We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law and the right to choose your own leaders -- whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sana'a or Tehran."

He told Syria's President Bashir Assad that his people had "shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy" and he was now faced with "a choice -- he can lead that transition, or get out of the way". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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