Page last updated at 20:56 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 21:56 UK

Obama to address Muslims in Egypt

Cairo skilne (archive image)
Egypt is a key Muslim ally of the US

US President Barack Obama will give a long-awaited speech on US relations with the Muslim world on a visit to Egypt, the White House has announced.

He will travel to Egypt on 4 June and a day later arrive in Germany for a visit to Dresden and the site of the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald.

During his election campaign, Mr Obama promised to make a major speech on ties with Muslims early in his presidency.

Egypt arguably represented "the heart of the Arab world", a spokesman said.

In Turkey last month, the president declared that the US was not at war with Islam and he called for a greater partnership with the Muslim world.

Right from the start, Barack Obama has made clear he wants to rebuild relations with the Muslim and Arab world, the BBC's Jonathan Beale reports from Washington.

With so many events in so short a space of time, it is going to be a carefully choreographed trip, our correspondent says.

'Extending the hand'

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked if Egypt was an appropriate venue for the speech, given its poor record on human rights.

Thursday 4: Egypt for keynote speech
Friday 5: Dresden and Buchenwald
Saturday 6: D-Day events in Normandy

"The scope of the speech, the desire for the president to speak, is bigger than where the speech was going to be given or who's the leadership of the country where the speech is going to be given," he replied.

"This is a continuing effort of the president to engage the Muslim world," he added.

"All of this gives the president the opportunity hopefully to extend the hand to those that in many ways are like us but simply have a different religion."

The White House press secretary explained that Mr Obama's great-uncle had helped liberate Buchenwald.

After the German leg of the visit, the president is due in Normandy for events commemorating the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings on 6 June.


French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced earlier he and Mr Obama would visit together the American war cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer above Omaha Beach on 6 June.

US troops stand near a lorry piled with bodies at Buchenwald, 11 April 1945
About 56,000 people were killed by the Nazis at Buchenwald

Omaha was one of the main landing points for US troops on D-Day and thousands of them were killed.

"We will spend some time together, this time in Normandy on the beaches, and we will go together to pay tribute in the cemeteries where so many young Americans paid with their lives for the freedom of our country," said Mr Sarkozy.

"We will also invite American veterans, so they can see that the French people have not forgotten them."

Charlie Payne, brother of the president's grandmother, was among US troops who liberated Buchenwald, where some 56,000 inmates were killed between 1938 and 1945.

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Obama reaches out to Muslim world
06 Apr 09 |  Europe

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