Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Obama aide apologises to US-Arabs

Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel apologised to Arab-Americans on behalf of his family

President-elect Barack Obama's White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel has apologised to the US-Arab community for remarks made by his father.

Benjamin Emanuel told an Israeli newspaper that his son, who is Jewish, would "obviously influence the president to be pro-Israel".

He also referred to Arabs in a way which a leading Arab-American group called an "unacceptable smear".

A spokesman for Rahm Emanuel said he had called the group to apologise.

Mr Emanuel also offered to meet members of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

In the interview last week with the Israeli daily newspaper Ma'ariv, Israeli-born Benjamin Emanuel talked about his son's new job.

Anger at remarks

He said: "Obviously he'll influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to be mopping floors at the White House."

His remarks angered the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which called on Rahm Emanuel to condemn them.

On Thursday, his office issued a statement saying that the veteran Democratic congressman had called the group's president, Mary Rose Oakar.

We cannot allow Arabs and Muslims to be portrayed in these unacceptable terms
Mary Rose Oakar, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

It said that he had "apologised on behalf of his family and offered to meet with representatives of the Arab-American community at an appropriate time in the future".

On its website, the committee quoted Mr Rahm as saying: "From the fullness of my heart, I personally apologise on behalf of my family and me. These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family."

Ms Oakar welcomed the apology, saying: "We cannot allow Arabs and Muslims to be portrayed in these unacceptable terms."

Rahm Emanuel served as deputy chief of staff to Bill Clinton and analysts say he has a reputation for forceful negotiation and unwavering loyalty.

As Mr Obama's chief of staff - and one of his closest advisers - he will be responsible for delivering the president's policy platform.

Some Middle East commentators have voiced concern about the appointment of Mr Emanuel, who has a pro-Israel record.

However, the congressman himself dismissed the idea and said that Mr Obama did not need his influence to "orientate his policy toward Israel".

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