NEAL CONAN, host:
This is an election news special, Talk of the World from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan at the Newseum in Washington, DC with NPR senior news analyst Ted Koppel. A persistent criticism of the United States over many years is that the world's greatest military and economic power is parochial; simply put, that we don't just listen. Well, today, we're here to listen. Two days after the election of a new president amidst two unresolved wars, a global economic and environmental crisis, great and perhaps unrealistic expectations. We want to hear your reaction to President-elect Barack Obama. We want you to be our reporters today. What's happening where you live, what are people saying? Give us a call and we'll call you back, the phone number is country code 1-202-513-2008, again 1-202-513-2008. You can also join the conversation by email, that address is email@example.com and we're going to take questions from people in the audience here at the studio in the Newseum in Washington, DC. And we want to thank you for coming in today. I appreciate you being here.
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CONAN: Later my colleague Ted Koppel and I will also speak with Israeli Natan Sharansky and Palestinian Hanan Ashrawi to get their views. But we begin with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner with us today from his home in Cape Town, South Africa. Archbishop Tutu, it's good of you to take time to be with us today.
Archbishop DESMOND TUTU (Activist, Nobel Prize Winner): Thank you. Thank you and hi, Ted. Where is Ted Koppel?
CONAN: He's right there. Go ahead, Ted.
TED KOPPEL: Neal is just so jealous of the microphone that he turned mine off. But it's wonderful to hear your voice again.
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Archbishop TUTU: How are you my friend?
CONAN: Archbishop Tutu, can I ask? How does the election of Barack Obama change things, do you think, for Africa?
Archbishop TUTU: Well, I want to say first of all, just congratulations to him and his running mate and also to Senator McCain for his gracious concession speech. You're an incredible country. I mean, you're a country where you still have a lot of racism, but you are also a country that could do what you did, and you must know that we think you are fantastic. You are a fantastic people, a fantastic country. You've given incredible hope to many, many people around the world. This election of Senator Obama has ignited hope in, not just in Africa, I mean you saw the reception he got in Berlin which shows - I mean that the world is just - are just waiting for the signal that a new era has dawned.
And we believe that it'll - it's going to mean many, many important things. It's going to say, we are not going to be speaking as cleverly as you used to do about the axis of evil. I am sure he's going to do a great deal to ease the tensions that have characterized the Bush administration. And that Africa will, yeah, one of the good things I think the Bush administration did was with its PEPFAR. They did raise a fair amount of money for fighting AIDS and tuberculosis and malaria. And for that, we should command the outgoing administration very warmly and I think the incoming administration is not going to do less than that.
KOPPEL: What I really hear you saying, Archbishop, is that - it sounds to me as though you're looking at President-elect Obama more in terms of being an unBush than in terms of any specific thoughts that you have about him. Tell me what you know of him and what your expectations are of him.
Archbishop TUTU: Yes. I met him - he came to visit me when he was in South Africa and visited my office. I was very taken with him, he's warm, he's a charismatic young man, he's handsome.
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KOPPEL: He's tall too.
Archbishop TUTU: And he's a very, very bright young man. And I know he cares because you see I was in Kenya at the beginning of this year, very soon after the violence had broken out after the elections in Kenya. And I was in my hotel, I'd been invited to visit Kenya on a solidarity visit by the churches and he called me in my office and in my hotel to say, if I thought there was anything he could do, I should just call on him. And what impressed me afterwards was the fact that he didn't in his campaigning refer to any of this that could have given people the impression that he did actually care about foreign affairs, you know.
And yes, well, you can describe him positively, although you can't run away from the fact that the positiveness about him is constantly going to be seen against a background of his predecessor. When he is going to work for peace in Iraq, it's in contradistinction to his immediate predecessor, who instead of promoting peace - as many of us did, asked him by - if they wanted to, to search for the criminals who were responsible for the outrage in September - instead sought to invade a country. And I mean, I called the White House to try to plead with your president that he should give the UN inspectors time and he didn't. And Barack Obama has said he's going to do something about trying to end that war.
He's clearly different from your incumbent president on the issues of global warming, climate change. I hope he's going to be serious too and ratify the Rome statute, which has set out the International Criminal Court. I myself would hope too that he would do something that politicians find it extremely difficult to do, but inasmuch as President Bush invaded Iraq on the basis of a lie, that your new president should actually apologize - apologize to the Iraqis, apologize to the world for having that America misled the world.
KOPPEL: You don't really think he's going to do that.
Archbishop TUTU: Why not? Why not?
KOPPEL: Because US interests remain what they've always been in the Persian Gulf, and let me the first to offer a hint of disappointment to you. I don't think the President-elect Obama will be pulling all US troops out of there for a long, long time to come.
Archbishop TUTU: Well, I certainly hope he is going to do his damnedest to reduce the tension. He has, I think, said that his intentions are to promote stability and peace in that area. I hope that they will do the same in Afghanistan. I hope, I hope that they will find that peace is a great deal more productive than war. I mean, just look at the destruction of a country. Just look at the amount of money that your country has spent on a war to the extent that you were not able to afford decent health care for your own people. I mean, it is that peace has tremendous dividends.
CONAN: Archbishop Tutu, turning just for a moment to Africa, one of the things the United States also does not have is any ability to intervene even if it should want to, to help in the situation in Congo or in Darfur, for that matter. What role do you think the United States in the new Barack Obama administration should do there?
Archbishop TUTU: Well, I would certainly hope that they would be a great deal more cooperative with the United Nations. The Republicans have been anything but. I mean, they appointed some extraordinary representatives of your country, people who actually had previously indicated their total antipathy towards the UN. The United States can help the UN be more effective by providing them with the wherewithal that would enable the UN to carry out its functions on behalf of the world community where people would look askance at a unilateral action. I think one of the most important things that your new president is certainly going to do, you know, sometimes people say there's a lot of anti-Americanism around in the world. Let me assure you, there is no such phenomenon. There is no anti-Americanism anywhere that I know about. What there is, is very considerable resentment and anger which I share and many people share.
CONAN: Archbishop Tutu can you stay with us for a few minutes? We have to take a short break. Archbishop Desmond Tutu with us by phone from his home in Cape Town in South Africa, with NPR senior new analyst Ted Koppel. I am Neal Conan, and this is the Talk of the World from NPR News.
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CONAN: This is an election news special, Talk of the World from NPR News. I am Neal Conan in Washington, DC with NPR senior news analyst Ted Koppel at the Newseum. When President-elect Barack Obama took the stage on election night, he thanked Americans for their support and their votes then he directed his attention to a much wider audience.
President-elect BARACK OBAMA: And all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.
CONAN: President-elect Barack Obama speaking after his victory on election night. We often hear complaints the United States does not listen; today, we are. And we want to hear from listeners around the world, tell us your reaction to President-elect Barack Obama. Tell us what others around you are saying and doing in response. Our telephone number is country code 1-202-513-2008, again 1-202-513-2008.
You can also join the conversation by email, that address is firstname.lastname@example.org and we'd like to read this dispatch that we got from an American named Susie who's with the Clinton Foundation working in Ethiopia. I hated to leave the US this particular trip to Africa, not wanting to miss the blow-by-blow election coverage in what I hope would be a celebratory week for us all. I worry that history might be made at home and that somehow I would miss it. Instead I found that every taxi driver, waiter, chambermaid, and everyone I came in to contact with was watching this election as closely as we have been. This morning when we all awoke to the news, I stood in crowds of Africans cheering, smiling, crying. We have a new president who has ignited the hopes of millions. I cannot tell you how moving it has been. In broken English they quote his acceptance speech, this while 12 million in Ethiopia alone face a famine worst than in 1984. So we have seen hope come alive again against huge odds. What a great day.
With us by phone from his home in Cape Town, South Africa is the Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Desmond Tutu, there is hope around the world but you said in an editorial that you wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle about six weeks ago, that Africans shouldn't - not expect somehow that a new President Obama will feed them or provide them with cars or jobs but he can provide them with hope.
Archbishop TUTU: He certainly has done that. There is no question; I was saying that people speak about an anti-Americanism and I say twaddle, there is no anti-Americanism, what there has been has been an anger and a resentment against bully-boy tactics of an arrogant administration going its way all by itself in its unilateralism. And what we, most people are saying, is we believe we are now on the verge of a wonderful - or on the dawn of a wonderful, wonderful era where the United States will be truly a leader of the world community, leading in - because you are one of the most compassionate, the most generous people that I know in the world and we want to see you exporting that and not your bombs.
Please keep your bombs at home and show that you belong together with us and you've been fantastic when you - I mean, Peace Corps comes from America and one has seen the remarkable young people right around the world from your country who expend themselves selflessly, and one wants to take one's hat off and I know myself just how much we owe to yourselves, your young people particularly and not exclusively. You know, in our struggle against apartheid and that's what Barack Obama has reignited. A world that is saying what will you see in America that is a more caring, a more compassionate America which reflects more the character of your people and your nation than what has been the case in the last eight years.
CONAN: Archbishop Tutu, we thank you for staying up so late this evening to speak with us.
Archbishop TUTU: Goodbye, God bless you and thank you for giving us hope.
CONAN: Archbishop Desmond Tutu with us by phone from his home in Cape Town in South Africa. Here's an email we got from Sevon(ph) in Romania. I'm a volunteer in Romania and had been able to be so involved this election season through the availability of the internet watching debates, national news, and parodies. I've also been able to get my friends, coworkers and local students involved in these elections, which has been extra special in a country that was under a dictatorship less than 20 years ago. And we have a caller on the line and this is Pierre who is in Aix-en-Provence in France. Pierre, are you there?
PIERRE (Caller): I am.
PIERRE: Can you hear me?
CONAN: Yes, welcome to Talk of the World.
PIERRE: Thank you. Well, I wanted to call on behalf of all the people I've seen in Aix-en-Provence and the south, from the mailman to the baker to people at the bank, many people on the street it was a sense of joy and celebration and most of all hope. It's really, can I say - there is also quite an American contingent in around Aix-en-Provence and also I think 40 percent of the population is composed of students, but still based on recent surveys done by Le Monde, there was like about 85 percent of the French population supported Barack Obama.
CONAN: They didn't vote, regrettably, for...
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PIERRE: No, they didn't vote, but still the hope and expectation - we are still very much realistic in France knowing that there is a lot of work and, shall we say, clean-up work that needs to be done.
CONAN: And I wonder, Pierre if you have considered the idea that there could be disappointment ahead, that President Obama may not, well, perform exactly as you might hope and those others around you.
PIERRE: Yes, there has been, I think I've seen an editorial also, saying just that. Obama may not be as liberal or as much of a peace-loving man that maybe some people idealize him to be. So, but the feeling is, I believe, that was a sense of - I mean, my wife is American, and it was almost a sense of embarrassment due to the previous administration. Going abroad was, you know, you were almost embarrassed to say you were American or we had to explain that they were, you know, an administration, even though the French have always recognized or identified the fact that there is in the US, there is the government and there is the people.
And we felt that the people were not expressing enough their will, their desires, their hopes and aspiration and so but after the second - the re-election of George Bush, I think the public -the French public opinion got a little confused as to what the United States was about or was after that peace and also, one thing that is very much on the mind of a good part of the French population is the Quito Accord on, basically, world pollution and all that.
CONAN: And we'll be addressing that a bit later in the program but, Pierre, thank you very much for the phone call, we appreciate it.
PIERRE: My pleasure, thank you.
CONAN: One of the political puzzles President-elect Obama will have to try to solve is the stalled peace process in the Middle East, an issue that has a ripple effect and not just there but throughout the world. Joining us today from Ramallah on the West Bank in Palestine is Palestinian legislator and chairperson of the Executive Committee for the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, Hanan Ashrawi and thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us tonight.
Ms. HANAN ASHRAWI (Palestinian Legislator): My pleasure, thank you.
CONAN: And also with us is Natan Sharansky. He is a former Soviet dissident and political prisoner as well as a former member of the Israeli Knesset. He is with us on the line from his home in Jerusalem and it's good to speak with you, sir.
Mr. NATAN SHARANSKY (Human Rights Activist): Good evening.
CONAN: And let's begin with Hanan Ashrawi, what do you hope for a change? What are Palestinians hope with the new American administration?
Ms. ASHRAWI: Well, first, may I congratulate you and the American people on a remarkable achievement. You really have managed in one day to carry out a very huge transformation not just within the boundaries of the US but actually globally. You've managed to salvage, and through your elections, the standing and the credibility of the US and you've sent a clear message of hope to the rest of the world. I'm not saying that you've elected a savior and we're not looking at the deus ex machina, and we do not have unrealistic expectations. But the last eight years have been disastrous.
They exhibited the worst that American foreign policy could do in the region. They've seen a political vacuum with American non-intervention or negative intervention - negative intervention in terms of wars, the war on Iraq, unilateralism, militarism, extreme ideological polarization, the emergence of the Christian right with the neo-cons, this age of ideology that somehow created this Manichean universe of good and evil and devils and angels and managed to divide rather than to bring the world together. And as far as the Palestinians were concerned, we certainly were on the receiving end not just of the negative intervention but also the sins of omission of not working towards a just peace process, of not using any kind of accountability or curbs for Israel, of allowing Israel, the occupation, to act with immunity and impunity and at the same time keeping the Palestinians outside any kind of human consideration or protection.
We were labeled and dismissed. And only lately, as usual too little too late, the US administration decided that something has to be done about the peace process and about trying to engage and to understand that without solving the Palestinian question, without ending the occupation, there is no way you can handle all the instabilities of the region or even issues of extremism and violence...
CONAN: Natan Sharansky - oh, I apologize.
Ms. ASHRAWI: And unfortunately, it's late. Yeah.
CONAN: I just wanted to bring Natan Sharansky into the conversation. I know that you have known John McCain for many years. Are you disappointed in the election of Barack Obama?
Mr. SHARANSKY: I knew George Bush, I know for many years John McCain, who like me was in prison, and I know Barack Obama. And I got to say there is only one point on which I can agree with Hanan Ashrawi is that we had amazing, remarkable democratic campaign of elections. We had outstanding two candidates, amazing people. We heard yesterday night two great speeches of McCain and then Obama, which show all the best which old America had and which new America has. And of course, we also in Israel in the Middle East, know how important of the goal it is that America will be strong, will be powerful, will attract the gold with the ideas of freedom and democracy and that's why election of Barack Obama gives a very positive message throughout the world and to think my friend campaigned also - McCain also had an excellent campaign and a very noble campaign until the very last moment.
Now, I have to say I can agree that the last eight years were very, very difficult. But they were very difficult not because of the rise of, how it was said, Christian right but because of the rise of fundamentalist terror. We here in the Middle East had to face Hezbollah and Hamas and of course the terror of so-called second intifada. And again, we know how it is important, as Barack Obama said, that the change will come from the grassroots, that the change can come only when there is real freedom and democracy is growing its roots. And I hope that with the new leadership, this point, that the real peace will be brought only through development of civil society, from strengthening democracy, will come very powerful to the Middle East.
KOPPEL: Hello to you both. This is Ted Koppel. Hanan Ashrawi, you were complaining a moment ago about the fact that the Bush administration really disengaged from the Middle East over most of the past two terms. What is it then that you hope and expect to get from an Obama administration? Do you want direct US intervention?
Ms. ASHRAWI: Yes, certainly. First of all, Ted. May I say it's wonderful to hear your voice again.
KOPPEL: Thank you.
Ms. ASHRAWI: We've missed you.
KOPPEL: Thank you.
Ms. ASHRAWI: Terribly. Two, certainly, the American disengagement from the region has allowed for all sorts of negative dynamics to run their course. And as usual, when there is a political vacuum in the region, as you know, it is always filled by violence. And therefore, we needed political engagement of the positive kind, not military engagement of the negative kind. The war on Iraq for all the wrong reasons destabilized the whole region. Of course it totally discredited the US and its standing, but at the same time, it wreaked havoc throughout.
And the whole ideology of sort of saying the problem with the region is just the lack of democracy - even as you know we've had our elections, we've had our representatives and it's just that people didn't like the results of our elections, which were tainted by the occupation. Anyway, that's another topic. But the American absence was sort of an abrogation of responsibility, because all along they were talking about peace and the peace process and terms of reference and (unintelligible) solutions and under the guise of peace and talks on the process for its own sake, reality was entirely transformed by unilateralism, by actions underground, by Israeli settlement activities.
I mean we're talking about returning the land, the occupied territory to the Palestinians and at the same time Israel was allowed to take more land, build more settlements, build this horrific wall of separation, and at the same time carry out incursions and so on which led to the undermining of the whole peace process and of course faith, confidence in peace and in the American administration and the possibility of being about a two-state solution. So while we had lip service, we didn't have any real engagement until this year; and the whole issue of Annapolis was a little bit of too little and too late unfortunately.
KOPPEL: Neal, I'm afraid we've made the mistake of asking questions of people who are so eloquent that it's difficult to get another question in edgewise. I'm delaying for a moment.
Ms. ASHRAWI: I'm sorry. (Laughing)
KOPPEL: No, no, no. I'm delaying for a moment only because I know Neal has to take a break and Natan Sharansky, we'll get to you in just a moment, I promise.
CONAN: And here's an email we have from Roshein O'Donnell. I'm an Irish girl living in France with an African partner. If I could sum up the feeling here - relief. We were ready to admire America again. We were tired of being cynical. I really feel that in Europe, if we could borrow your president-elect for a while, we would. As for what the African community thought of this election, the word hope seems inadequate. We want to hear today from our listeners around the world. Tell us your reaction to President-elect Barack Obama - relief, concern? Give us a call; we'll call you back. 1-202-513-2008 or you can email us. The address is email@example.com. With Ted Koppel, I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's an election special, The Talk of the World, from NPR News.
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CONAN: This is an election special, Talk of the World, from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're getting global reaction to Barack Obama's election as next president of the United States and talking with listeners around the world. In addition to the hundreds of member stations in the United States that are carrying this program, we'd like to welcome those of you listening on Radio NABA in Latvia, YLE Mondo in Finland and RTE Radio 1 in Ireland and many other broadcasters who graciously agreed to bring you this broadcast. We got this from Kieran in Ireland.
I'm listening to you online. I wanted to say that Ireland loves President-elect Barack Obama more than you can imagine, and we have followed the US presidential election more than we follow our own election for the Dail and members of the Irish parliament. Irish reporters were following the election live for three hours straight and joining in to the parties that were celebrated at the end. Obama has been invited to Ireland by our Taoiseach or prime minister already.
That's from Kieran Griffith listening to RTE in Ireland. Well, we want you to be our global reporters. What's reaction where you live to the election of President-elect Barack Obama? - Positive and negative. Give us a call, we'll call you back. Our phone number is 202-513-2008. Again, 1-202-513-2008. You can also join the conversation by email. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org. NPR senior news analyst Ted Koppel is also with us and we're talking with Hanan Ashrawi and Natan Sharansky. Ted.
KOPPEL: And let me turn now to Natan Sharansky. And let me ask you first of all to resist the temptation to engage in an immediate debate because I want to ask you what I think is an even more pressing problem - certainly a pressing problem as far as the president-elect has to be concerned, and that is the notion of a potentially nuclear Iran. What advice would you give him?
Mr. SHARANSKY: Well, there is one thing in common between many leaders of the free world and for this case for McCain and Obama that they all said that it's absolutely impossible to have this equation when the fundamentalist regime of Iran will have nuclear weapons and the missile to deliver it. And we are becoming closer and closer to the moment when it will happen. I was personally involved with negotiations between Russia and America for the last 15 years about this question and a lot of time was wasted.
President-elect Obama doesn't have too much time. He has to start dealing with this equation immediately and if he can start with saying that he will try to negotiate, to come to some understanding about what leaders of Iran, they stop this program; and if not, all the options are open. And it's very important that all the options will be open, it's very important to do everything to reach a peaceful understanding. But for us, in Israel, and I believe for all the free world, it's not the question of comfortable life, it's the question of survival of the free world.
CONAN: Let's get a caller on the line and this is Michael. And Michael is calling us here from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.
MICHAEL: Yeah, greetings, greetings from Lewis(ph). I wanted to ask - I think I have a feeling that Obama has a historic chance to push through some kind of settlement in the Middle East between the Palestinians and Israelis because it seems that even the hardliners in Israel realize that they really have to give these people a homeland and dismantle these settlements and checkpoints if they ever want peace, and it seems that even they understand that. So I think it's somewhat a historic opportunity and Obama doesn't have any baggage and he has a huge, huge load of goodwill from the world.
CONAN: Well, we're obviously having difficulty with the line. But Natan Sharansky, we hear that you are in fact going back to the Likud Coalition and could be standing for parliament, the Knesset again this year.
Mr. SHARANSKY: Yes well I've - in Ukraine, I can tell a lot to my colleagues about the relations between the minorities in Israel and to compare them in Ukraine. And believe me, Israel doesn't have anything to be ashamed of. But the problem of the last years was that every piece of territory, big piece of territory like Gaza from which we retreated came to the control of fundamentalist terror and now is the base of terrorist attacks deep in Israel.
So the question is how to reach the equation when we can have two democratic states? So how to strengthen building of the civil society of Palestinians and to deal with the people with whom we can rely on. And I do believe that President-elect Obama can do a lot for this, because again and again, he was emphasizing not only during campaign but in his books, in my meeting with him, that he believes that the real change is coming from the grassroots. When people start building democratic institutions for their normal free life, then the real grass appears. And I hope that will be the main effort of the future years and then really we can have a change and very quick change.
KOPPEL: Hanan Ashrawi.
CONAN: I'm afraid that sound, that beeping sound we heard before, was Hanan Ashrawi going away, because her phone line is gone down - I apologize for that.
KOPPEL: All right.
CONAN: And Natan Sharansky, we wanted to thank you so much for your time tonight. We appreciate it, and if you're standing in the next elections, good luck to you.
Mr. SHARANSKY: Thank you, I'm not standing, but we are all interested that America will be strong and attractive with the message of freedom to all the world.
CONAN: And thank you very much. And I spoke too soon; apparently Hanan Ashrawi is back with us, so Ted, one more chance.
KOPPEL: All right. Hanan I don't know if you could hear Natan Sharansky, but what he was suggesting before is that there is a need for the United States to become directly involved, and more intimately involved perhaps, and the question I put to both of you but we just heard from him, so let me hear from you. What specifically can any American president, no matter how well motivated, no matter how quickly and attentively he comes to the subject of Israeli-Palestinian relations, what can the United States do that you cannot do on your own?
Ms. ASHRAWI: Yeah, well they can make peace. (unintelligible) Let me tell you frankly, a lot of the groundwork has been done. We do not need to reinvent the wheel, we know what the components, what the requirements are, we know that we need not a process for its own sake, but a rapid negotiations that would lead to the implementation of the two-state solution. Return to the '67 boundaries, sharing Jerusalem east and west, and of course, return of the refugees and the removal of the settlements and the whole issue of water. These are issues that have been discussed and negotiated over and over again.
People know what is needed, what we need to do is first of all affirm the terms of reference as international law, you end dissolutions; perhaps even put together a new coalition of the willing for peace this time, and move rapidly in order to prevent deterioration of conditions on the ground and to rescue the two-state solution, because we see before our very eyes the disappearance of the territory on which the state is to be built. And we see, of course, expansionism, we see increased hostility, loss of confidence, increased extremism and violence.
So, he can do a lot, he can put together a team, he can send an envoy, he knows what needs to be done, he can read all the documents, but move rapidly for implementation. Simultaneously make sure that conditions on the ground do not deteriorate. Remove the checkpoints, remove the siege, stop the settlement activities, stop the incursions, the assassination, the killings, and help the Palestinians rebuild. We are divided and this is absolutely tragic. So...
CONAN: Hanan Ashrawi, I hate to interrupt but do you really think the president of the United States is going to be able to do all of that?
Ms. ASHRAWI: Oh yes. I think he can because a lot has been done already. We know what's needed. All we need is the political will and the courage, first of all, to stand up to Israeli violations, but also to realize the language of peace. If I may say so personally, you know, we've all put our lives at risk in favor of peace. We have risked everything in order to legitimize - that's what - reconciliation and peace. And yet we haven't had any reciprocity, we haven't had people turn back and say we can make peace. They have allowed Israel to continue to erode the very foundation and requirements of peace.
Now is the time to say OK, we will stand up to Israel, but we will also work on a peace that would have legitimacy, credibility, and would have an impact on reality on the ground. If he can appoint an immediate high level envoy and start immediately perhaps even with the international conference of a new coalition for peace not just the quartet, expand it. And there are all sorts of papers now being written for the new administration and I think if he wants to make an impact, and if he wants to stabilize the region, then this where he can start and he can start quickly because conditions are right, and we're losing of course the possibility of the two-state solution.
CONAN: Hanan Ashrawi, I'm sorry...
Ms. ASHRAWI: But I don't want to end before telling that there are many people who are jealous of your president-elect and there are many people who would like to borrow him. Let's hope it's contagious.
CONAN: Hanan Ashrawi we thank you for your time tonight. Appreciate it. It's gracious of you to be with us.
Ms. ASHRAWI: Thank you. Thank you very much. Good talking to you.
CONAN: Hanan Ashrawi, legislator and chairperson of the Executive Committee for The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue & Democracy. And Ted, I seem to hear maximalist positions from both sides there.
KOPPEL: No. No. You know what I was just thinking if there is a slight throbbing in the temples of any of our listeners right now, you can just imagine how poor President-elect Obama is starting to feel.
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CONAN: Here's an email from Bobby in Wellington, New Zealand. Here in my city of Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, President-elect Obama was on the front page of every section of the newspaper, the front page, the world section, the business section, even on the life section with a picture of a girl wearing an Obama t-shirt captioned "Obama chic." Politics is the height of fashion. I wonder if they had him taking a jump shot on the sports page. Anyway, let's see if we can get to another caller and this is Amir. And Amir is with us on the line from Tehran in Iran.
AMIR (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call.
CONAN: Go ahead, Amir.
AMIR: I've got two points first of all I'm going to congratulate you American people because you have managed to select the first black president and because you have managed to proclaim once more how a full-fledged democracy should function. And it took almost a year for Americans to select their president and here we are going to have our presidential election in 10 months and we don't know who the candidates are and if they are going to be approved by the guardian council. So, in short the US election, the presidential election has lessons for all those who are ready to learn.
CONAN: Amir, many Americans would wish it had only taken a year; in fact it took almost two.
AMIR: Yeah, yeah, but I was following the second one.
CONAN: Oh, since the primaries. Yes. OK.
AMIR: Yeah, the first primary.
CONAN: And the process - what are people in Iran, the people you talk to, saying about the possibility of renewed dialogue with the United States? Do they really think that Barack Obama is going to be something different?
AMIR: As always. Iranian people are in favor of dialogue, but you know, here we have an administration including the supreme leader and all of them are opposed to the idea of having direct dialogue with the US of A, because in a way they are going to support Hamas and they are in a way opposed to Israel and having normal relations with the US of A means they have to put an end to their old policies.
KOPPEL: Although you know, Amir - this is Ted Koppel speaking. You know...
KOPPEL: ...that your President Ahmadinejad, and he is the first Iranian leader to do so since 1979, since the Islamic revolution, sent a message of congratulations to President-elect Obama and Mr. Obama of course has throughout the campaign spoken of his willingness and interest in direct negotiations with Iran. Would there be happiness in Iran if that were to happen?
AMIR: Yeah. It sure - it would be in a way a great piece of news for Iranian people, but I'm just sincerely hoping to have heard something from his heart.
KOPPEL: Whose heart?
AMIR: The president's heart.
CONAN: Which president?
KOPPEL: Yours or ours?
AMIR: Ours. Ours. Ahmadinejad because after almost three years we don't know if he is sincere that Iranians - I mean he talks about President Obama or when he sends a congratulatory message to the president. So, we are not sure, and we can no longer trust him.
CONAN: Amir, thanks very much for the phone call. We appreciate it.
AMIR: It's a pleasure, and can I have a quick point for Ted?
CONAN: Go ahead.
AMIR: Oh, Ted, please stick to NPR because otherwise we are going to have to miss you.
(Soundbite of laughter)
KOPPEL: Well, thank you.
(Soundbite of laughter)
KOPPEL: It's a dirty possibility, isn't it?
(Soundbite of laughter)
KOPPEL: Thank you, Amir.
AMIR: My pleasure and take care.
CONAN: Goodnight to you. Let's go now to Alex. And Alex is on the line with us from Benin in West Africa.
ALEX (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call.
CONAN: Go ahead, Alex.
ALEX: Hi, yeah. I'm an English teacher here in Benin in West Africa, and it's been a pretty exciting last few days, at least conversation with some of my colleagues, the other teachers at school. It was funny because when I came in the morning of the fifth they were all, you know, hands up in the air, Obama. There's a lot of support over here for him and there is people who were very happy that he was elected and there was people who - a minority that say, you know, that were against him, but it's very interesting how people over here are very, I guess, interested in him becoming the president of the United States.
CONAN: And they're interested in it, becoming president. What change do they think he will make? What difference do you think they perceive that he will make?
ALEX: I actually - many of - most people I've had conversation with don't say that any changes is going to happen here, they do - many people I've talked to said that changing regarding the United States and I guess its standing in the world - it's surprising, a lot of people understand that many Americans are not happy with the way the Iraq war is going and they said that the reason why he's been elected is mostly because of Iraq which, you know, I'm not sure that's necessarily the case, but it's - they do understand and do think that and it's interesting to have a conversation with someone who, you know, sees television a few times a week because we do have some electricity here, but it's exciting I guess.
CONAN: Some electricity. They have some electricity in Baghdad too. So, thanks very much. Thank you very much for the call, Alex.
ALEX: OK, thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. This email from Mark in Paris. I believe President-elect Obama has a realistic view of American priorities in the Middle East, in particular the need to restore focus to Afghanistan, but here in France there's great opposition to even continuing the current French military presence in Afghanistan and recent deaths of French soldiers at the hands of the Taliban have only increased this opposition. How does your guest see Obama being able to mobilize French and European support for increased financial and military intervention in Afghanistan? And Ted, that is going to be a continued problem. The new commander General McKiernan in Afghanistan has said, called for more troops than are available from the United States.
KOPPEL: He wants 20, maybe 30,000 more troops and the only way he can get them is if they're pulled out of Iraq. I said before just in passing, I think President Obama is going to have a very hard time pulling troops out of Iraq in any number soon. When people talk about Afghanistan, by implication they are also talking about the gigantic problem looming next door in Pakistan, which could prove to be the biggest foreign policy crisis confronting this new president. He's got a lot on his plate.
CONAN: Ted Koppel, thanks very much. We'd like to thank those of you who called and emailed this hour and we're sorry we didn't have time to talk with you all. We'd also like to thank our member stations who brought you this program in the United States and the many overseas broadcasters kind enough to carry today's show. They include World Radio Switzerland, Swedish Radio, NRK Norway, and Polish Radio among many others.
A special thanks to our team at NPR Worldwide, Kingsley Smith, Svetlana Stepanova, and Carlos Barrionuevo, to Dalia Martinez who produced today's program, and to the Newseum for hosting us today here in Washington, DC. We're hoping this could be the first of many conversations we have with a worldwide audience. If you like to hear future editions of Talk Of The World, please let us know. Send us an email: email@example.com. If you don't get our regular program in your country, you can always visit npr.org. This is Talk of the World from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
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