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U.S. Ambassador Says Mideast Is World's Challenge

Zalmay Khalilzad (file photo) (AFP) April 25, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has called the crises in the Middle East the most important challenge of our time.

"The future of the region of the broader Middle East in my judgment is the defining challenge of our time, the way Europe was for a long time the source of many of the world's security problems," Zalmay Khalilzad, speaking on April 24 to journalists at the UN in New York, said. "Unfortunately, now many of the security problems of the world emanate from that region, and the UN is playing an important role."

Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, spoke to reporters after his first UN Security Council meeting. He took up his post on April 23, succeeding John Bolton, who left last December.

"I know that the United Nations can be a very effective and positive force," he said. "I come from a lot of field experience in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and I've seen firsthand that working with others, working with the United Nations, positive results can be achieved."

But there will be a lot of work to do.

Muslim Attitudes

As Khalilzad spoke, a new survey was issued in the United States that suggests the struggle for Muslim hearts and minds around the world continues to be lost.

The survey was prepared by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), a nonprofit research program affiliated with the University of Maryland. It was conducted between December 9, 2006, and February 15, 2007 using in-home interviews.

On average 79 percent of the people interviewed in Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco, and Pakistan believe the United States seeks to "weaken and divide the Islamic world."

Another 79 percent say the United States is trying to maintain "control over the oil resources of the Middle East." On average, 64 percent believe it is a U.S. goal to "spread Christianity in the region."

Support for those attacking U.S. troops in Iraq is huge. It includes 91 percent of those polled in Egypt, 68 percent in Morocco, 35 percent in Pakistan, and 19 percent in Indonesia. Approval rates for attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan are almost similar.

Attitudes toward Al-Qaeda are mixed. Large majorities approve of many of Al-Qaeda's principal goals. According to the survey, 70 percent or higher support such goals as - "stand up to Americans and affirm the dignity of the Islamic people," "push the U.S. to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries."

Meanwhile, less than one in four of those surveyed believes Al-Qaeda was responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

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