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What Sen. Obama Told Jordan

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What Sen. Obama Told Jordan

Election 2008

What Sen. Obama Told Jordan

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, it's Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen. He writes poetry, studies psychiatry and is considered the architect of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Radovan Karadzic was arrested yesterday after years on the run. A closer look at the man, just ahead.

CHADWICK: First, presidential politics. After three days in Iraq and Afghanistan, Senator Barack Obama is in Jordan, and on his way to Israel.

In Amman, he spoke with reporters for his first extended remarks since the Iraqi government essentially embraced his call for a pullout of U.S. troops in the next two years. Here he is, recounting his conversation, yesterday, with American General David Petraeus, who disagrees with the senator about a timeline.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): His concern has to do with wanting to retain as much flexibility as possible. And what I emphasized to him was, you know, if I was, if I were in his shoes, I'd probably feel the same way. But my job, as a candidate for president and a potential commander-in-chief, extends beyond Iraq. So, that's something that I have to factor in. I have to factor in the perceptions of the Iraqi people and the statements by Prime Minister Maliki and his spokespeople, in public, that they are ready to see the Iraqi government take on more responsibility for security.

CHADWICK: That's Senator Obama at a press conference in Jordan. He's also met with King Abdullah there, and then on to Israel. We're joined by Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine. Karen, I watched his press conference on TV. He seemed very cautious. He didn't make much of a point of coming right out and saying, the government of Iraq has practically endorsed my plan for troop withdrawal.

Ms. KAREN TUMULTY (Reporter, Time Magazine): That's right. He's caught some flak today from the Republicans for a statement that he and Senator Hagel and Senator Reed released last night, making reference to the fact that, in their private conversations with Prime Minister Maliki, that he had, in fact, you know, endorsed the timetable. Which, of course, is something he's done fairly publicly over the last few days as well. So I think they were trying to avoid the tradition in diplomacy where, you know, private conversations with world leaders are not talked about directly outside the room.

CHADWICK: Karen, the press conference lasted about 45 minutes. A lot of it was on Iraq and Afghanistan. There were questions on Israel, too. Here's a part of what Senator Obama had to say about that.

Senator OBAMA: I think it's unrealistic to expect that a U.S. president alone can suddenly snap his fingers and bring about peace in this region. What a U.S. president can do is apply sustained energy and focus on the issues of the Israelis and the Palestinians. And I do believe that an ultimate resolution is going to involve two states.

CHADWICK: Karen Tumulty from Time Magazine, what is Senator Obama going to be doing in Israel in the next 24 hours?

Ms. TUMULTY: Well, you know, Alex, in some ways this is, politically, the most treacherous part of his trip that is coming up here. Because he has a ways to go with American Jewish voters, and had caused some anxiety two weeks ago with his comments to AIPAC about there needing to be a unified Jerusalem, which he then walked back a bit as well, and he's now, of course, saying that is a subject for final status negotiations. He is being very, very careful with his language, but the one thing I think he can say safely, and that he is going to be asked to commit himself to, in his meetings with King Abdullah and with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders is a renewed and a consistent focus on the peace process.

CHADWICK: Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine, with Senator Barack Obama on his tour, now in the Middle East. Karen, thank you so much.

Ms. TUMULTY: Thank you, Alex.

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