Obama would address Mideast conflict 'the minute' he became president
U.S. presidential contender Barack Obama promised Tuesday during the first stop of his tour of the Middle East that if he becomes president, he will immediately begin work on establishing peace in the region.
Speaking at a news conference in Amman, Jordan, the presumptive Democratic candidate promised that he would work hard to secure a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians "starting from the minute I'm sworn into office." He admitted, however, that such an agreement would not come easily.
Obama said it's "unrealistic to expect that a U.S. president alone can suddenly snap his fingers and bring about peace in this region."
He made the comments after disembarking from a military aircraft that brought him from a recent tour of Iraq and Afghanistan with two fellow senators. Although he has visited the Middle East before, it was Obama's first trip as the Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting.
Following a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II, the Illinois senator flew to Israel for talks with Israeli leaders and Palestinians.
Obama said Tuesday that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would require "two states standing side by side in peace and security and that the Israelis and the Palestinians are going to both have to make compromises in order to arrive at that two-state solution."
He added that the United States should create "a greater sense of security among the Israelis, a greater sense that economic progress and increased freedom of movement is something that can be accomplished in the Palestinian territories and, with those confidence-building measures, that we get discussions back on track."
Obama didn't repeat a previous assertion that any peace deal had to leave Jerusalem as an undivided city. The comments, made in June during a speech to the pro-Israeli lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee, dismayed many in the Arab world.
On the issue of Iraq, Obama said he is still committed to withdrawing American forces from the country by the second year of his administration, drawing renewed criticism from Republican rival John McCain.
"Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign," McCain said at a town hall meeting in Rochester, N.H.
While Obama refused to admit that President George W. Bush's decision to dispatch 30,000 troops to Iraq in 2007 had succeeded in reducing violence in the country, he said, "I believe that the situation in Iraq is more secure than it was a year and a half ago."
From Israel, Obama will travel to Germany, France and England before returning to the U.S. next weekend.
With files from the Associated Press