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Obama: 'Moment is Now' to Press for Mideast Peace

By Paula Wolfson, VOA, Dresden

One day after delivering a speech to the Muslim world, U.S. President Barack Obama pushed for progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and in negotiations on Iran's nuclear ambitions. The president spoke after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dresden.

President Obama is calling on all parties to redouble efforts to get the Mideast peace process going again.

"The moment is now for us to all act on what we know to be the truth, which is that each side is going to have to make some difficult compromises," he said.

At a news conference with Chancellor Merkel in the courtyard of Dresden Castle, the president was asked to explain the reason why he believes the time is right for progress in a peace process that has been stalemated for years.

He pointed to the actions taken by his administration since taking office in January. Mr. Obama said the commitment shown early on has made a difference.

"We have only been in office five months and yet we have seen extraordinary activity already on this issue," he said. "And that sent a signal to all the parties in the Middle East that we are serious."

Mr. Obama pointed to his talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. And he noted his special Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, will be returning to the region next week.

"I think given what we have done so far, we have at least created the space, the atmosphere in which talks can restart," said Mr. Obama.

The president said he reviewed the prospects for peace with Chancellor Merkel. He said it was part of a productive discussion that also included economic matters, and efforts to restart talks between Iran and negotiators for the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

The talks were part of a visit that was steeped in symbolism. President Obama and Chancellor Merkel met in Dresden - a city destroyed by allied bombers during World War II. After their talks, they were to travel by helicopter to the Buchenwald concentration camp where tens of thousands of people - most of them Jews - died during the Nazi Holocaust.

President Obama said his pilgrimage to Buchenwald is personal, noting his great-uncle was part of an American military unit that liberated the camp.

"...and it was a memory that burned in him for quite some time," he said.

Speaking through a translator, Chancellor Merkel said she was moved by the president's decision to go to Buchenwald.

"Buchenwald is one example of these horrible concentration camps liberated by American troops," said Mrs. Merkel.

Nobel prize-winning writer Elie Weisel - a holocaust survivor - was expected to accompany the president to the site. Weisel was once a prisoner at Buchenwald.

... Payvand News - 06/05/09 ... --

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