After being sworn in as the 44th US President, Barack Obama used his inaugaration speech to pledge to seek a 'new way forward' with the Muslim world. But he also warned that the United States will defeat 'terror'.
In his speech upon taking office, Obama also echoed campaign promises for two key Muslim nations by saying the United States will "begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan."
Obama has vowed to hit the ground running on his first full day in the White House on Wednesday when the Senate, according to a Democratic leadership source, will vote on his choice of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, the chief US diplomat.
Faced with a set of daunting challenges across the Muslim world -- from the Palestinian territories to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan -- Obama set a new tone and promised a fresh balance in using diplomatic, military and other forms of power.
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Security in post 9/11 America, he pledged, will not come at the expense of abandoning the US ideals of liberty and the rule of law, which critics worldwide say the Bush administration trampled on in conducting its war on terror.
In a jab at the unilateral military force that Bush used to invade Iraq in 2003, Obama said previous American generations had defeated fascism and communism with "sturdy alliances and enduring convictions" besides resorting to armed intervention.
These generations knew that US "security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint," Obama said, alluding to the accusations of arrogance cast at the Bush administration.
His administration will be guided by such principles as it meet "those new threats that demand .... even greater cooperation and understanding between nations," Obama declared.
"We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan," he said.
During his long presidential campaign, Obama vowed to mend alliances, in particular with Europe, whose support he seeks to help stabilize Afghanistan where the Taliban has re-emerged as a threat after its ouster by US forces in 2001.
"With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat," he said.
He was referring to a "new approach" both he and Clinton have promised toward reining in Iran's nuclear ambitions by engaging diplomatically with the Shiite Muslim country.
"And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you," he warned.
As a melting pot nation, "we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve," he said.
"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect," he added.
He made no direct reference to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict which erupted anew on December 27 when Israel launched a three-week military offensive against the Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza only to stall in a shaky truce at the weekend.
Obama and Clinton have vowed to deal with this conflict immediately.
The Washington Post said Obama plans later Wednesday to name former Northern Ireland peacemaker George Mitchell as his new Middle East envoy.
Mitchell, 75, is the son of a Lebanese immigrant mother, and of an Irish father who when orphaned was adopted by a Lebanese family. The choice, if confirmed, appears set to appease Arab and other critics who contend Washington is biased in favor of Israel.