For his first formal television interview as president, Barack Obama chose not CNN or any of the Big Four, bur rather an Arabic satellite network.
In a sit-down with Al Arabiya that aired Tuesday, Obama reached out to Muslims to set an open discourse after years of distrust between the U.S. and the Islamic world. "My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect," Obama said. "I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect."
Obama told the Dubai-based network that it is important to "engage" with the Middle East immediately in order to repair relations. His Middle East envoy, Sen. George Mitchell, arrived in Egypt on Tuesday for a regional visit. Obama said he told Mitchell to "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating."
The interview, in which Obama also criticized Iran, was broadcast in numerous Arabic nations and the response was positive across the board. "It's different from what we've seen in forever," said Jamil Mroue, a Lebanese journalist and publisher. "This is his first official interview, and it's addressed to Al Arabiya? It's a logical extension of his inauguration speech, but it's unprecedented."
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