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, D.C. with NPR's senior news analyst Ted Koppel. Over the past eight years, opinion of the United States has plummeted in many parts of the world. Something that began to change with the election earlier this week of Barack Obama, and there's expectation of much more change after he takes office on January 20th.
However, American interests around the world will remain the same, and the challenges to a global economic crisis, the environment, nuclear proliferation, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, we'll talk with the former Mexican President Vicente Fox; Mohamed Elbaradei, Nobel Prize winner is the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency; and with Nobel laureate and environmental activist Wangari Maathai. And we want to hear from our international listeners today. What role do you want the U.S. to play? Do you look to Washington for more leadership or less?
Give us a call, we'll call you back. Our telephone number is country code 1-202-513-2008. Again, that's country code 1-202-513-2008. You can also join the conversation by email. That address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll also take questions from the audience here at the Newseum in Washington D.C. And we want to thank all of you for coming in today. I appreciate you being here.
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CONAN: And in fact, let's begin today's broadcast with a question from the audience here at the Newseum. Go ahead please.
Mr. SIMON WILSON (Audience Member): Simon Wilson, I'm the Washington bureau chief for BBC News. First of all, a couple of anecdotal things our all coverage to Britain and around the world on BBC outlets has had an astonishing ratings, you know, that this all the anecdotal of stuff you've heard about people wanting to know was coming through enough figures. And it's been really phenomenal. People staying up all night in the U.K. and all over the world to listen to - to our coverage of what's going on here.
And just for me personally as a foreign journalist to be based in America at this time has been extraordinary on a personal level, and a professional level. I want to throw a thought out there, and I think it would be really interesting to hear what Ted Koppel has to say about this. In recent years, the international news coverage by American newspapers and the TV networks has suffered enormously.
I think NPR is a great and honorable exception to this. But the economic problems in the American media have meant there has been much less foreign news coverage coming from the rest of the world back to United States. So I just wondered, Ted, if you think that a more outward looking presidency might have an impact on this.
TED KOPPEL: No. It - I don't think it's going to have an impact because you point it out quite correctly that it has happened - it's really happened for two reasons, economic and technological. The technological side is you have roughly the same audience that you had 20 or 30 years ago, you have 10, 20, 30 times as many different outlets. They're competing for the advertising dollars because they are and because advertisers get more money for younger viewers. And networks perceive younger viewers as being disinterested in foreign news, and foreign news being the most expensive news to cover. Therefore, little or no foreign news coverage and the economics of that are not going to change. So I don't see any change in the coverage.
Mr. WILSON: Would you think that's anything that's the new administration can kind of do to encourage that?
KOPPEL: No. I mean, you know, unless they declare another war, you know. Unfortunately, when we first...
CONAN: A popular one, we would hope.
KOPPEL: Well, popular or unpopular. I mean the fact or the matter is when the United States invaded Iraq, there was huge engagement and involvement. And now if you watch the evening news broadcast there are very, very few stories out of Iraq anymore. Iraq and the Persian Gulf, are just as important as the war six - seven - eight years ago. But the fact or the matter is thankfully, young American men and women are dying in smaller numbers. And therefore, the level of interest is way down.
Mr. WILSON: So we'll need to get everyone listening to NPR and watching - listening to the BBC.
KOPPEL: Certainly. And since I worked for both, I can't disagree with that.
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CONAN: Thanks very much for the question. Let's see if we can go now to the phones. And we're going to talk with Jan (ph), a German native visiting this country. Yan, you're on the line, go ahead please.
JAN (Caller): Yes, hello. My name is Jan. I'm indeed a German native. I live in Athens, Greece. I'm an EU diplomat. And I especially came to the United States to visit my twin brother and his family to share the experience of the election. And I must honestly say this has been a most moving, extraordinarily experience. And, I think it does testify to a number of issues. One is very much, yet the first inside the United States to indeed open a new chapter. But I think it tells us a lot also about Europe, it tells us a lot about how Europe wants to reconnect politically for example to the United States.
How in the past eight years it has felt that there has been a disconnect? And that now the language, the personality, the image is changing and there's an opportunity on the table to reconnect. I also think that it tells us a lot about European countries about in a way in their expression of sympathy for Barack Obama. They're actually also looking for such an expression in their own European countries and they're not finding it yet. And hence they're turning to the United States where there is a very positive development, but they would also embrace such a development in their home country be at in Athens, or it Berlin.
CONAN: As you look though at this situation, the United States is still the most important economic power in the world still the most important military power in the world - though one greatly stretched by its current commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
CONAN: As you look at the flight of capital to the United States dollar into the Japanese yen, given the current economic crisis. This is also big on the shift, a lot of priorities around the world.
JAN: Yes, indeed. It has shifted priority. It has immediately affected me as a visitor to the United States holding euros. It is in the exchange of it, just not as advantageous anymore as it was just a few months ago. But I would like to emphasize another point, and that is it tells me something about the way I have seen Mr. Obama on television, on NPR listening to him. That here is somebody who is willing on a multilaterally form to approach the issues in the coordinated matter to talk (unintelligible) with individual world government, to talk with central banks to listen. He's advisable. He has a team of economic advisers that suggest to me, he listens to them even if he disagrees with them. And he has a totality of the whole debate I think can change, and it opens the door.
There's a window of opportunity that you can sit at a table. And even if you disagree, you can coordinate your move. And this is very important that in times of such an economic crisis, which has on a global scale affected so many countries so immediately. They are also looking then for global answers for coordinated answers. And I think Mr. Obama has this craftsmanship to provide such answers in cooperation with other leaders.
CONAN: And Jans, here's your one and only opportunity to nominate the next secretary of the Treasury. Who'd you like to see in that job?
JAN: I think and not so much who I'd like to see but an expert who has international experience, who can talk more than one language. I think for example is Mr. Summers is a candidate who is well positioned to do so.
CONAN: The once and, perhaps, future secretary of the treasury Lawrence Summers. Thanks very much for your phone call, we appreciate it.
JAN: I thank you.
CONAN: The Obama administration faces a series of urgent challenges on the national security fund, U.S. troops fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Barack Obama, the candidate who said the world cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran, and North Korea continues to play nuclear cat and mouse with the international inspectors. For the last decades Mohamed Elbaradei has led the world's atomic watchdog organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and he's now with us by phone from Vienna. The headquarters of the IAEA in Austria and Mohamed ElBaradei, thanks very much for being with us today.
Mr. MOHAMED ELBARADEI (Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency): Thank you very much for having me, Neal.
CONAN: And you recently said you've been encouraged by some of the things that President-elect Obama has said. What do you expect from an Obama administration when it comes to Iran? Do you expect him to be good to his word that he cannot tolerate a nuclear armed Iran?
Mr. ELBARADEI: Well, I think I expect that yes. President-elect Obama and the International Community at large should not tolerate the nuclear weapon Iran or any other frankly nuclear weapon new state. But I also expect and hope that they would engage the Iranian government in a direct negotiation without precondition as they stated. To me this is the only way for a durable solution to the Iranian issue here because it's a part of a complex web of insecurity, a lack of trust, a integration was the rest of the international community particularly between Iran and the U.S.
So there is no durable solution without a direct negotiation, without precondition, and that's why I'm very encouraged by President-elect Obama's statement. But I'm also, you know, support him that we should make it very clear that the world and the U.S. should not tolerate any new nuclear weapon state. In fact, we should work exactly in the opposite direction as he said we need to work towards a world free from nuclear weapons.
KOPPEL: Dr. ElBaradei, this is Ted Koppel. If I was sitting in Tehran today and I watched what had happened between the government of North Korea and the United States. And how the United States has (unintelligible) become or the Bush administration more specifically more willing to discuss and negotiate with North Korea. Now, that it is become apparent that they have nuclear weapons. Why should I as an Iranian leader not conclude that I have far more leverage in terms of Iranian interest if I have nuclear weapons then if I agree not to have them?
Mr. ELBARADEI: Well, Ted, that's very good question frankly, and I have been bothered for many years as why the U.S. was able to have a direct negotiation with North Korea and not with Iran. North Korea having developed nuclear weapons, and Iran is suspected of just working to develop the technology. I think the answer to your question that we should not wait for Iran to develop nuclear weapon. We should raise the cost if Iran wants to develop nuclear weapon there as you know there are sanctions and the international community should make it very clear that there is a very high cost to - if Iran wants to develop the nuclear weapon. But there are also a lot of incentives if Iran were to roll back, you know, it's a ambition they might have to develop nuclear weapon and it's basically going back to the old diplomacy. That kind of instinct and how to balance these two that is at the heart of that resolution of the Iranian issue which unfortunately in my view has been mismanaged for a number of years.
CONAN: Stay with us if you would, Mr. ElBaradei, we have to take a short break. So we'll ask you to stand hold for just a moment if you would. We're talking about the global challenges that face the administration of President-elect Barack Obama. What role do you want the United States to play in solving major issues greater or lesser? If you'd like to call us our country code is 1-202-513-2008. You can also join the conversation by email that address is email@example.com. I'm Neal Conan along with senior news analyst from NPR Ted Koppel. It's an election news special 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'm Neal Conan in the Newseum in Washington D.C. along with NPR senior news analyst Ted Koppel. Two nights ago newscasters around the world reported the same breaking story, the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.
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CONAN: Some of the international news coverage last Tuesday night, the administration in Washington D.C. will change come January 20th but many of the global challenges faced by the new president will not. Today, we want to hear from international listeners. What role do you want the U.S. to play in this crisis? Do you look to Washington for more leadership or less? Give us a call and we'll call you back and we'll pick up the charges. Our phone number country code 1-202-513-2008, and you can also join the conversation by email that address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Ted Koppel is with us, at the moment we're speaking with Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Peace Prize winner, is head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He's with us on the line from their headquarters in Vienna. Ted.
KOPPEL: Dr. ElBaradei, how terrible would it be if Iran had nuclear weapons and we simply said to them, all right, you've got them, but we're now going to hold you responsible for the management thereof and in the event that you have them as long as you behave yourself, all kinds of wonderful things can happen politically and economically. If anything goes wrong and you're part of the world and nuclear weapons were involved we will hold you're responsible? Why would that not be workable solution?
Mr. ELBARADEI: One, its alternative, Ted. But I think it's a horrible scenario because the message we will be sending for any country who wants to have power, prestige influence, protection is to go for nuclear weapons. And the more new state with nuclear weapon the odds that nuclear weapons will be used either accidentally or intentionally. That's why people like Henry Kissinger and Sam Donnan(ph) and (unintelligible) came recently to say that we need to move towards a world free from nuclear weapons because nuclear weapons have become increasingly hazardous, decreasing the effective, I think we need to change the whole environment of our collective security system that - I mean, we unfortunately we still - you know, even in environment the nuclear weapons states say to the rest of the world, nuclear weapons are dangerous.
But for us we have to rely on it and we have to modernize it and even develop new nuclear weapons. And I have been saying for a number of years that that system is not sustainable and add to that the fact that the technology is out of the tube, that's the most danger I see that is an extremes group getting hold of nuclear weapon or radioactive source, because the cause of - that's not apply there.
KOPPEL: I take your point, Dr. ElBaradei. But from everything I understand if the Iranians are determined to go ahead there is in effect and nothing we can do about it.
Mr. ELBARADEI: Well, I think with states can do a lot, I mean to start with and let us talk to them directly that - I mean, for the last three or four years we have been setting conditions not to talk to us Iranian and you mentioned that we have talking directly to the North Korea. I mean, let us at least try diplomacy as President Elect Obama has said. Let us try diplomacy. Let us try direct negotiation. If it doesn't work when then we would see what would be the next step, but I think believe that if Iran were to be engage, if Iran to see clear benefit of not developing nuclear weapon like engaging into normal trade with the U.S., normal relationship with the rest of the international community. Importing nuclear - peaceful nuclear technology getting and a security package.
I mean, a lot of what the Iranians are doing, I think, is they feel that they are living in a neighborhood which is not the most friendly frankly, and you need to create at this incentive for the Iranians to develop nuclear weapons. I always ask myself why - Finland for example has never think of developing nuclear weapon. And why Iran would probably think or Egypt or Turkey, because the Middle East is hot bed of insecurity, violence and stability, depression, corruption, you name it. So we need to change the environment "A" to create governance, to create development and also to make it clear that nuclear weapons does not bring you, you know, the benefit do you think that will get you, but it would cause you a lot to go in that dangerous route. We need...
CONAN: Dr. ElBaradei?
Mr. ELBARADEI: Yeah.
CONAN: I'm afraid we have to say goodbye. We wanted to thank you very much for being with us this evening.
Mr. ELBARADEI: Thank you very much, Neal, for having me.
CONAN: Thank you. We appreciate it and we have to say goodbye because our next guest, the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox has just a few minutes to be with us. He's been very patient waiting on the line, and President Fox, it's good to have you with us tonight.
Mr. VICENTE FOX (Former President, New Mexico): It's a pleasure. How are you?
CONAN: I'm very well. Thank you. Vicente Fox, joining us from his rancho, San Cristobal in Mexico, and I'm sure that you were listening closely to Barack Obama as he campaigned for president of the United States. The issue of immigration hardly came up at all during the whole context of this long campaign from either candidate. Now that's he's President Elect Obama. Does this concern you?
Mr. FOX: Well, first of all I did get - a great example of democracy for the whole world. We all followed that election and we were all marriage with the Democratic values. And of course the world has - same as the people from United States with high expectations on Barack Obama the new president of the largest nation in the world and the largest economy. For Mexicans, it's extremely important this election and we are (unintelligible) what the commitments, what the new relationship is going to be between Barack Obama the president of the United States in Latin America and completely with Mexico.
CONAN: Well, eight years ago, was George W. Bush who broke with president and then visited you in Mexico before visiting north of the border with Canada. Do you think that symbolism would be important again this year?
Mr. FOX: Well, let me tell you right at this moment. I'm in rancho San Cristobal where all of you have your home and this is what we have that summit meeting between the - if President Bush and the President Fox and we came out with a commitment there which was to move ahead with a reform and on immigration. And at the very end in six years nothing happened. Of course, I understand the problems that were caused by this very sad day of September 11. But at the very end, we not only did not advance on immigration but on the contrary. I think we are worse than ever.
This is why my first intention right now is to have the opportunity to meet with President elect Barack Obama and bring to his attention all of our points of view in relation to immigration which is what we are discussing and debating at Vicente Fox Center the presidential library that we just finished building (unintelligible) rancho San Cristobal and which is a think tank. And we've been working for a full year about the reform on immigration. I think it's time that we come out with a solution to this key issue.
KOPPEL: President Fox, this is Ted Koppel. What would be the two or three points? I mean, assumed that the president elect is listening avidly to NPR right now. What are the two or three points that you would like to make to him perhaps we can cut some time here?
Mr. FOX: Well, number one is to have the awareness of the magnitude and the impact of the immigration - a issue between two leading nations like it is United States and Mexico. And two leading regions Latin America and North America. first, awareness, no mutual is back from being carrying out throughout history. And today, there is millions and millions of immigrants in the United States and they are hard working, decent people looking out for the quality of life of their families. And by putting together that desire with the needs of the U.S. economy for labor that U.S. citizens do not want to take like it's farming, like it is service industry, like it is collecting apples or building homes or whatever so the ideas to put together this two parts and come out with a reform.
Number three, I would say, that there has to be a solution for those undocumented that are working for a corporation, working for an institution, working for a family, working in the rural areas, working in different sectors of the economy, United States, and the bringing in competitiveness to our economy so that must be considered. And some solution as temporary guest programs should come about for those who are already there, who are working, who do have a job and that are considering to the better being of the U.S. economy.
CONAN: We have a...
Pres. FOX: Number four is the future. The U.S. economy needs additional 500,000 new jobs every year. That U.S. citizens are not willing to comply with or not willing to take. So for that is the proposal of our guests - temporary guests program, so that they can come in, work and when they finished their work, they go back home.
CONAN: President Fox, we have a caller on the line. Adolfo, who is from Honduras, but calling us today from Miami. Adolfo, you're on the air. Would you go ahead, please?
ADOLFO (Caller): Yes. Well I also would like to congratulate the United States for this symbolic triumph. In Honduras, the perception of Obama is a symbol of reform of hope. And let me explain why we feel this way. First of all is that - there's a saying I think in English that goes that you have to walk the talk and now with this triumph of Barack Obama, we can listen to the talk. I don't think that - I remember ever seeing a lot of emphasis on the immigration. I think that because of how polarization - polarized the topic make the discussion. I don't think that it was (unintelligible) during the debates, I think that only point blank what were they going to do to the issue that needs to be revisited, changes in policies but then because of the content of his I believe, and at least for my own - I'm speaking of my own about this - we believe that it is a major triumph and perhaps, it is a good time to view immigration with a new set of eyes.
CONAN: Thank you very much for that, Adolfo. We appreciate the phone call. President Fox, as you look at the situation of the United States quite closely, are you afraid that as the Republican Party re-aligns after its loss in these elections that it is going to become the party - the anti-immigration party?
Pres. FOX: Well, they have to come up with solid ideas and at least the position of Senator McCain in relation to the reform was very positive. The reform date with Senate together with - with Senator Kennedy, I think it's a great answer to the problem, but who knows how they're going to move. For the moment, I think that President-elect Obama has to better understand what I read on his book about outsourcing, what I've read on his book about jobs in the United States, I think he was forced because of the election to have a very local view and a little bit forget about the commitment of that great nation with the rest of the world and at the same time, the linkage between the U.S. economy and the rest of economies in the world.
Today, the world is flat, no doubt. And you cannot build walls when you should be building bridges, and you cannot isolate from the rest of the world. And you cannot protect your jobs by isolating within your economy. You protect your jobs when you associate to gain productivity, competitiveness and he will understand that, that the power of the manufacturing industry or the power of the U.S. economy, it's only viable when it works together in trading - we need works together associating with other nations.
CONAN: And we have a call, I think at just this point from Simon calling us up from Oslo. Simon, are you there?
SIMON (Caller): Hi. I'm here.
CONAN: Go ahead, please.
SIMON: Yeah, first let me commend the American people on making great choice in electing a president who seems so intent on promoting collaboration, cooperation and unity both at home and abroad. I like that, and I believe the world desperately needs a mindset like that.
CONAN: Thank you, Simon, with your question, please.
SIMON: Yeah. I've followed the campaign very closely and I've heard many variations of Obama's stump speech and he has always returned to this mantra about protecting American jobs. And while that may sound great in the ears of struggling American workers, I'm a little worried that an Obama administration would set up trade barriers that would put an even greater strain on the already hurting world economy.
CONAN: And let's put that to President Fox - former President Fox. He also spoke and re-negotiating the NAFTA agreement. And I'm afraid we just have a few seconds for you to respond but we'd like to hear your thoughts.
Pres. FOX: Yes. Well, of course, NAFTA can be re-negotiated with a positive attitude and to further expand and further integrate - it will be a thorough mistake if the thinking of opening NAFTA is for limiting the potentiality that NAFTA has. Many people in United States and many president-elects do not know that Mexico buys from the United States US 250 billion US dollars worth of products that we input from the state, we import cars, we import computers, we import telephone, everything. That means hundreds of thousands of jobs for US citizens, so we are partners, we in a way depend from each other and that has to be understood...
CONAN: Simon, thank you so much for your call and President Fox, I hate to interrupt but I'm afraid we're out of time. We appreciate your being with us today. Former president of Mexico.
Pres. FOX: Hello to everybody. Goodbye.
CONAN: President Fox joining us from San Cristobal, his ranch in Mexico. We'll get some more of your calls and emails in a moment. I'm Neal Conan, along with Ted Koppel. It's an election news special. 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'm Neal Conan in Washington D.C. along with NPR senior news analyst, Ted Koppel. The expectations of the incoming Obama administration are huge. In the Sunday Times in Perth, Australia, Sandra O'Mally wrote, Australia will want to be reassured the new administration plans to continue America's long-term engagement in the Asia Pacific.
In London's Guardian newspaper, Simon Tisdale cautioned there is reason to keep one's feet on the ground when it comes to changes in U.S. foreign policy under Obama given the daunting domestic agenda he inherits and the lengthy, the complexities of the transition it maybe many months before Obama and his still un-appointed team get the chance to apply themselves seriously to the biggest challenges he has outlined. We posted a roundup up a global opinion on our website at npr.org. Today our focus is on the many challenges facing the new administration around the world in addition to the hundreds of member stations in the U.S. that are carrying this program.
We'd like to welcome those of you listening to World Radio Switzerland, Swedish Radio, NRK Norway, Polish Radio and the many other broadcasters have graciously agreed to carry this program. We want to hear from our international listeners today, what role do you want the United States to play in global crisis? Do you look to Washington for more leadership or less? Give us a call and we'll call you back. Our phone number is country code 1-202-513-2008. Again that's country code 1-202-513-2008. You could also join the conversation by email and that address is email@example.com.
We have this from Amon in Cork, Ireland. "My daughter Keira aged 10, was asked in school yesterday to write the letter that they would think, either Rosa Parks or Dr. Martin Luther King would send to Barack Obama. The fact that a class like this many thousands of miles from the United States might be such a topic of discussion is a measure of the impact of his election." And joining us now is Wangari Maathai, she's the founder of the Green Belt Movement in Nairobi, Kenya and a Nobel Laureate for her environmental work, and nice to have on the program today.
Ms. WANGARI MAATHAI (Founder, Green Belt Movement, Environmental and Political Activist; Nobel Laureate Recipient): Thank you.
CONAN: And we know that Barack Obama is considered not just a child of the United States but a child of Africa, in general and a child of Kenya, in particular, too. So I expect there has been great rejoicing there.
Ms. MAATHAI: There has been a lot of excitement. Yes, indeed.
CONAN: You wrote in today's Guardian Newspaper in Britain, the United States has truly overcome, the world is joining in. And you wrote you hope that African leaders can take advantage of the opportunities Obama's administration has likely to create. What opportunities do you think a President Obama will offer to Africans?
Ms. MAATHAI: Well, I think that one of the challenges that Africa has been faced with is governance. Trying to create a democratic state and peaceful state and they have been inflicted with conflict. And these conflicts are mostly due to inability to overcome ethnicity, so I'm hoping that the victory of Barack Obama and the performance of the Americans will inspire African leadership and be able to take advantage of the friendship that Africa has with the U.S.A.
CONAN: And what role would you expect President Obama to play in that governance is an issue for many African nations, as you suggest, but nevertheless changing that surely as an internal African matter and an inter-national matter.
Ms. MAATHAI: Well, I think it depends very much be assisted by the United States and other developed countries by for example promoting better trade relations. We have had the very unfair trades - unfair trade relationship where we are not allowed to enter the market and especially we are not allowed to export...
CONAN: Well, I think telephone connectivity may be soon on their agenda because we apparently lost the line to Nairobi. Ted?
KOPPEL: It sounds that well, you know, I was interested, Neal in the question you raised and have been raising throughout this hour and the previous hour. And that is how much U.S. leadership does the rest of the world want. And I would suggest to you that when you asked leadership, and what the U.S. wants coincides with what a particular country wants they're regarded as leadership. And when they don't, they regard it as interference. And I think one of the questions we have to ask ourselves is to what degree will President-elect Obama feel the need to interfere in other country's affairs for the benefit of the United States.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get a caller up while we see if we can get (unintelligible) back in the line. Now this is Ahlil(ph), Ahlil is with us calling from Sierra Leone. Abdullah, go ahead please.
ABDULLAH (Caller): Abdullah.
CONAN: Yes, you're on the line. Go ahead please.
ABDULLAH: I'm Abdullah from Saudi Arabia.
CONAN: All right, I apologize. I was misinformed. As somebody went (unintelligible) said about the waters in Casablanca.
ABDULLAH: OK, that's right. I'm honored to be on the air, especially talking to you and Ted Koppel. I'm a viewer of Ted Koppel since 1982, and learned my English and politics from Nightline.
KOPPEL: Your English is superb. I don't know what your politics are.
ABDULLAH: I wished that Nightline had concentrated on issues other than Israel in the Middle East. I think Obama will be a successful international leader, not only just an American leader because he can relate to being half African, half Islam half European. And even half-Asian being from Hawaii and studied in Indonesia. I can see that he has - he's going to have a lot of influence in many continents not just - and then also I wish Obama can resolve Middle East terrorism through spreading Democracy and liberty for these nations that suffered under tyranny under oppression from not just in Israel but all of the Middle East governments are responsible for these problems. That we have...
CONAN: One could point out that the United States has not been spectacularly successful spreading Democracy in the Middle East thus far.
ABDULLAH: Well, because they didn't have Obama. Hopefully now, we can send in troops to Iraq, and fighting the Iraqi people from Bush thinking he's a cowboy. And trying American, he likes the American-Indian wars. That doesn't work in the Middle East.
KOPPEL: Abdullah, can I ask you a quick question? When you talk about these autocratic or even tyrannical regimes in the Middle East, do you include your own in the Saudi Arabia?
ABDULLAH: Well, I'm not - I am even taking risk by even calling. I will put the blame on all the Middle East governments from Morocco through China. So there are problems with every aspects of life here from an environment to human rights to waste of resources. Some governments are (unintelligible) they call themselves a government. And we will not have any benefits or economic benefits from their policy.
KOPPEL: I appreciate the risk that you are taking and even saying what you have said. But you understand the thrust of my question. You wouldn't want direct U.S. physical intervention in the Saudi Arabia, would you?
ABDULLAH: Well, I think that direct, no. Indirect through scholarships, through education, through cultural exchanges, through environmental awareness, through spreading the values that America has, which has proven through this election. That America, although, in the last 18 years. The whole world suffered under the Bush administration. Americans said enough said enough. Saddam was responsible about these problems that Bush was another Saddam to us.
CONAN: Thanks very much for the call and we do appreciate the difficulties in which you have been calling.
ABDULLAH: Thank you. Goodbye.
CONAN: Wangari Maathai is back with us again, the founder of the Green Belt Movement in Nairobi, Kenya and Nobel laureate. I wanted to expand just briefly to talk about the environmental issues. You've no doubt heard the concerns of the current administration in Washington which are that any agreements - global agreements who do not taken into account that developing countries like India and China are not doing enough to abide by these agreements either. How can the United States engage those countries and become more active in joining these movements?
Ms. MAATHAI: Well, I think if the United States of America joined (unintelligible), especially in their on-going discussions on the post-secured(ph) protocol mechanisms. It would be encouraging to the other countries because America has contributed a lot to the program, and should provide the leadership in seeking solutions.
CONAN: Let's get a caller up, and this is Ahliw(ph), and Ahliw is from Sierra Leone. Though I believe he's calling us today from Cincinnati. Hello, Ahliw.
AHLIW (Caller): Yes, I'm calling from Oakland, California.
CONAN: OK. Well, go ahead please. Apparently people are able to make a very fast movements on the telephone today. Go ahead.
AHLIW: Yes. I'm calling from Oakland, California. And my issue that I want to bring to the table is what is President Obama going to do with regards to making African leaders more accountable to their people. There are many countries in Africa that are blessed with a lot of natural wealth like Equatorial Guinea that has a lot of oil. But it appears as if the people still remained way, way down in the poverty line, and life is pretty bleak in those places. And the more life, the more bleak life is in those places, the more wealthy are the leaders of those little countries are. And the more they use tricks and things out of force to subjugate their own people. What would President Obama want to do about the situation like that?
CONAN: Well, let me ask you, Ahliw. What would you like to see him do?
AHLIW: Well, I would like to see America become more pro-active in the area of preventing things like humanitarian disasters, man-made humanitarian disasters. So just what is going on in Darfur right now. The United States have lost influence in the - in Sudan. The Chinese are moving into Sudan. And the reason why is because the Chinese are upholding the human rights violations that are going on there, and the United States is saying nothing about it.
CONAN: Well, the United States has called it genocide, but the United Nations hasn't called it a genocide. But you're right, that the Chinese government has more influence with the government of Sudan right now than Washington D.C. does are for sure because the Chinese buy Sudan's oil. Wangari Maathai, do you see a problem when you have a developing countries like China, who are willing to overlook questions of human rights and environmental damage when making deals with various countries in Africa to obtain their natural resources.
Ms. MAATHAI: Well, yes. It is very tragic and we have sometimes been trying rid this (unintelligible) to call upon countries like China to be responsible to encourage African leaders but in the final analysis...
CONAN: In the final analysis the telephone connections in Nairobi are still leave something to be desired. Ahliw, we thank you very much for your call too. We appreciate it.
AHLIW: OK. Thank you.
CONAN: And Ted Koppel, one of the interesting points of convergence during this presidential campaign was both John McCain and Barack Obama said the United States needs to do something about Darfur. What remains to be determined both of them told about no-fly zones, where would they put the planes?
KOPPEL: You know the extraordinary thing is when you hear people talking and on the one hand the last caller from Oakland there who would like so desperately to see the United States become more directly engaged in Sudan. Other callers who are warning President-elect Obama against the kind of intervention that has marked some aspects of the Bush administration. There is just, you know, you can't have it both ways, and go ahead.
CONAN: And we have Somali on the line, in fact. Haribi is calling us, a Somali who is living in Saudi Arabia listening to us from there. Haribi you are on the air, go ahead please.
HARIBI (Caller): Yes. I can hear you.
CONAN: Go ahead, you're on the air.
HARIBI: Yes, thank you very much. First of all, many African is pleased that President Obama is (unintelligible) for they expect a lot of things from him but in few of the daunting jobs that are facing President Obama, in his country, U.S., we are worried that he might not have any time for the country of his father. But the country of his father, I mean, is Africa. So what do we expect from Obama is that we are very happy that he is the president of U.S.A. but we are looking forward also that he might give limited time off, you know, limited amount of time to Africa because Africa is looking forward to see Obama will help them. Because we -most of them we kind as well very happy like (unintelligible) they give, we say one day off due to election of Obama.
So we are expecting that he might help me as also, we have lot of problems. We have terrorist in our country. We financial problems, but we hear only Obama is concerned about his country, U.S.A. and he will never talk about Africa. So we hope he will give so this time to us also.
CONAN: Haribi hang on just a moment, we do have Wangari Maathai back with us on the line for Kenya. We do apologize for a difficulty as sustained in the connection there. We just have a couple of minutes left. What realistically do you expect from a President Obama when he's got all the terrible problems in Iraq, in Afghanistan? He's got terrible economic problems at home and economic problems around the world. Do you like Haribi fear that he will have little time for Africa?
Ms. MAATHAI: Yes. Well, I think that it is important for us to realize that there are certain things he cannot do. What I expect that Africa should do is take advantage of the doors for trades, for example. Renegotiate about the debt, for example. Ask to be assisted to bring more peace into the continent so that they can develop. Because what Africa is suffering from incapacitated to utilize our only sources and instead he's allowing people to come and exploit our resources. Now, Obama is not going to come over to Africa and do the work. The Africans must do the work but he can create opportunities through trade and such.
CONAN: Wangari Maathai, we again apologized for our telephone problems and we thank you so much for your time today.
Ms. MAATHAI: Thank you.
CONAN: Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement in Nairobi, Kenya. We know it's very late there, we appreciate her staying with us all this time and Haribi if you are still on the line calling us from Saudi Arabia, we thank you for your call too. And Ted Koppel, my colleague here at NPR News, our senior news analyst, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
KOPPEL: It's always a pleasure, Neal. Thank you.
CONAN: We'd like to thank all of you who called and emailed this hour. We are sorry we didn't have time to speak with you all and thanks to member stations who brought you this program in the United States and the many overseas broadcaster who is kind enough to carry today's program, they include World Radio Switzerland, Swedish Radio, NRK Norway and Polish Radio, among others. Special thanks to our team at NPR worldwide, Kingsley Smith, Svetlana(ph), Stipovena(ph), and Carlos Barrio Nuevo and to Dahlia Martinez who produced today's program and to the Newseum in Washington for hosting us today.
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