Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Obama signs his first Presidential order with a left jab
Obama hits ground running
By Caren Bohan and Matt Spetalnick, ReutersJanuary 21, 2009 3:07 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday plunged into Middle East peace diplomacy on his first full day in office and looked poised to order the closing of the internationally condemned military detention camp at Guantanamo within a year.
Acting swiftly the day after his inauguration, Obama — who had vowed a bolder pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace than his predecessor George W. Bush — called Israeli and Arab leaders to commit to "active engagement" and to promise help in consolidating the Gaza ceasefire.
"He pledged that the United States would do its part to make these efforts successful, working closely with the international community and these partners as they fulfill their responsibilities as well," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
Obama's packed agenda, including summoning his economic and national security teams to confront the financial crisis and the unpopular Iraq war, signaled his intention of meeting his promises to break sharply with the Bush era.
Obama's quick foray into Middle East diplomacy coincided with circulation of an unsigned draft executive order that would require the closing by early 2010 of the Guantanamo prison opened by the Bush administration to house terrorism suspects.
The facility, which Obama had vowed to shut down, has been widely seen as a stain on America's moral standing in the world because of harsh interrogation methods that human rights groups said amounted to torture.
The Obama administration would also start an immediate review on how to deal with the remaining prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, according to the draft order obtained by Reuters.
Critics had faulted Bush for taking a largely hands-off approach to Middle East peacemaking for much of his eight years in office.
Obama spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah not long after he stepped into the Oval Office for the first time since his historic inauguration as the first black U.S. president.
He is expected to name a Middle East envoy soon.
The fledgling president, who has vowed strong action to deal with the worst U.S. economic crisis in decades and to hammer out an exit strategy from the unpopular war in Iraq, planned separate meetings in the late afternoon with economic advisers as well as with his national security team.
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