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Clinton Unveils Programs To Strengthen U.S.-Muslim Ties


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the Arab development forum in Marrakesh.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the Arab development forum in Marrakesh.

(RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has unveiled the Obama administration's plans to bring the United States and the Muslim world closer together through a number of economic and social programs designed to spur development among the participants.

Clinton, speaking to an Arab development forum in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, said the United States intends to make good on its offer of a "fresh start" with the world's Muslims.

She said the new programs, many of which focus on the Arab world, will aim to encourage scientific and technical collaboration, women's empowerment, and cooperation between faiths.

Her remarks are a follow-up to President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo in June, in which he promised to seek a new start to troubled U.S. relations with the Islamic world.

Giving some details, Reuters reports that one of the projects is an entrepreneurship summit to be held in Washington in early 2010, bringing together innovators and leaders in Muslim communities with American business leaders.

Also envisaged is a global network to connect entrepreneurs and bring together investors, business support services, schools, and colleges.

There is a $76 million project to help increase economic opportunities, social services, and local governance in Yemen, a country which is threatened with growing instability.

Another project provides $30 million to assist vulnerable youth in Jordan who otherwise might drift into crime or terrorism.

There's also a plan to develop civil society by helping grass-roots organizations use digital technology to communicate.

'Far Short' Of Expectations

Clinton's comments come after her conciliatory gesture toward Arabs on November 2, when she softened her earlier praise of Israel's offer to restrain settlement building in Palestinian areas.

She said the Israeli offer fell "far short" of Washington's expectations, and that U.S. policy has not changed. President Barack Obama has demanded a total freeze on settlement building.

Many Arab states saw Clinton's praise as a relapse into a compromise on this key issue. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa expressed the "deep disappointment" of member states.

Clinton said Washington's policy on the settlement issue has not changed.

"We do not believe settlements are legitimate, we have said that repeatedly, and we have made that clear to the Israelis, the Arabs, the Palestinians, and the world," Clinton said.

But she described the Israeli offer as still a useful step in the right direction because it would set "unprecedented restrictions" on settlements.

Clinton leaves Morocco on November 3 for Cairo, where she will have talks on November 4 with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. That stop has been added to her itinerary reportedly to give her another opportunity to quell the furor over her remarks about Israel.

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